Vision & Concussions

Part 5 of a 6-part series on optical health

Published online: May 25, 2019 East Idaho Health, Healthy Vision Series with Dr. Dan Nielson Dr. Dan Nielson
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If your child plays any sports, please take a few minutes to read this article. It could make all the difference. There is a lot of attention and concern about sports-related head injuries and repeated mild head injuries. An article on CNN reported that the concussion rates among youth have increased 71% since 2010.

Obviously, sports of different kinds can result in accidents that involve a blow to the head. Common ones are football, gymnastics, soccer, lacrosse, and even dance. But any activity, even a fall, can incur a mild to severe head injury. So when a child takes a spill on a bicycle and hits his head on the pavement, a concussion can result the same as with the receiver on the football field being thrown on his head by a tackle. Even when wearing a helmet, one can still receive an injury because of the impact.

Just last week I saw a 7th grader who fell down playing basketball over a year ago and her head hit the concrete. The brief testing that followed confirmed a concussion but no other treatment was “needed”. Upon listening to her dad, I discovered she has been falling behind in reading, including skipping words and losing her place which all began roughly a year ago. There is no doubt that not only are these two problems correlated but the concussion did in fact cause the reading and tracking difficulties.


Vision signs that parents should watch for after a concussion:

  • Blurred vision, especially when reading
  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • Pain in the eye or eyes
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Loses place when reading

It should also be noted that sometimes symptoms of a concussion might not even appear for days, even weeks after the accident. Some symptoms may last only seconds, while others linger much longer, months and even years just as with the basketball player mentioned earlier. Additionally, some symptoms might disappear after time, such as eye pain or headaches, and yet other symptoms remain, i.e., blurred or doubled vision.

Keep in mind, that when someone is experiencing any of the above symptoms they could also have difficulty with reading and learning, as well as physical activities such as balance and movement as well as sports. These problems can be a lifelong problem if overlooked or ignored.

Sometimes special lenses can help. Other times vision therapy is needed. Vision therapy is very effective at eliminating blurry and/or double vision, focusing problems, poor concentration, and reduced comprehension, to name a few, when they are due to a vision problem. And, it works even if you haven’t had a head injury! Vision Training is effective at improving overall sports performance.

If you suspect your child may have had a head injury, or your child is suddenly struggling with any of the above when there was no problem before, be sure to schedule an appointment with a developmental optometrist.

To find an optometrist who specializes in visual rehabilitation visit: covd.org.

Dr. Dan Nielson provides specialized services in the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems that interfere with reading and learning and also does orthokeratology. For more information visit his website: www.idahovision.com.

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