Optometry could play informative role in return-to-play decisions after concussions

September 11, 2018

Since eyes can provide a window into the brain’s functioning after exposure to sports-related impacts, optometry could play an important, supportive role in return-to-play decisions after concussions, according to Dr. Katherine Weise, professor of Pediatric/Binocular Vision at the UAB School of Optometry and eye doctor for the UAB football team. Weise presented, “Concussion: The Hype, the Headlines, and the Hyperbole vs. the Evidence, A Team Eye Doctor’s Perspective,” August 24 as part of the Ernest Cole Brock III Continuing Medical Education Lecture Series hosted by the College of Community Health Sciences. For decades, optometrists have reported that visual deficits often occur as the result of concussions, but they also believe the eyes can help inform health professionals about the brain’s functioning after an impact. “The eyes are definitely affected in concussions. The eye is built from the brain and courses through the brain,” Weise said. “In addition to consequences to the visual system, the eyes may provide a window to the brain’s function following impact exposure.” Under Alabama law, concussed athletes cannot return to play for at least 24 hours and only after being cleared by a physician. Optometrist currently can’t weigh in on those return-to-play decisions. “We want to help doctors determine if it’s good for players to go back into the game,” Weise said. “We need to take a multi-disciplinary approach to assessing concussions.” Weise, who is also co-director of BlazerVision, is on the sidelines during UAB football games, assessing the vision of players who have sustained impacts. She shares this information with team doctors, who make decisions about whether players can return to the game. Currently, Weise is conducting pre-season eye screening of UAB football players to establish vision baselines for the athletes. Weise, whose father was a high school football coach and uncle an optometrist, received her undergraduate degree at Iowa State University in Ames and her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. “I was a little girl who grew up on the sidelines,” she said. She completed a family medicine residency with a pediatrics emphasis at the UAB School of Optometry in Birmingham and earned an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Weise has published and lectured extensively about the impact of sports and concussions on vision. She received funding several years ago to develop an Alabama-based, multi-institution research trial using the eye as a proxy to the brain in concussions. She was selected in 2014 and continues to serve as the vision representative for the Children’s of Alabama Concussion Summit Steering Committee. The Ernest Cole Brock III Continuing Medical Education Lecture Series was created by the late Dr. Ernest Cole Brock Jr. and his wife, Hannah Brock. The lecture series focuses on treating athletic injuries. The late Ernest Brock was an orthopedic surgeon who practiced in Tuscaloosa for many years. He was also a longtime physician for The University of Alabama football team and served as a preceptor for the College of Community Health Sciences, training resident physicians and medical students.