Today’s guest lecturer is Dr. Leonard Press. Dr. Press completed a Residency in Pediatric Optometry at the Eye Institute of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1978. He served as Chief of the Pediatric Unit and was subsequently recruited to be Chief of Vision Therapy Services at the State University of New York’s College of Optometry. Dr. Press is a Diplomate in Binocular Vision and Perception of the American Academy of Optometry, as well as a Board Certified Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. He has served in leadership roles in numerous organizations, including a term as President of COVD. Dr. Press is author of three widely acclaimed textbooks on vision therapy and related topics. He flexes his writing muscles regularly on the VisionHelp blog. He maintains a private practice in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where he is Optometric Director of the Vision and Learning Center. Dr. Press’ version of March Madness is visiting Clearwater, Florida, where he and his family can enjoy warm days and indulge his love of baseball.
It seems quite appropriate that March is Brain Injury Awareness month, as March heralds a season of renewal, particularly here in the Northeast from where I’m writing. If you know me, you may be aware that I am, shall we say, a bit of a baseball devotee. Not to take anything away form the pleasure of Cactus League Spring Training in Arizona, but there is a special charm to the Grapefruit League because the weather in Florida helps both players and spectators turn a page in life’s cycle.
What does baseball have to do with brain injury awareness? That is the point. So often brain injury is associated with overt and violently traumatic events such as car accidents, blows to the head in boxing or football, explosive devices in war, or a devastating stroke. Baseball seems like a leisurely sport where one strains muscles or pulls up with a hamstring. The furthest thing afield from traumatic brain injury. Yet such injury can and does occur and, when it does, is no less devastating than other forms of TBI. The type of brain injury in baseball can usually be categorized as mild, or mTBI, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
Quentin came to our office with his mother. He was a budding star on his high school baseball team and was being coached privately by a former high level minor league pitcher who only worked with elite teenage athletes. His mother and his coach sensed that Quentin’s demeanor had changed, both in the classroom and on the field. He reluctantly admitted that he had been hit in the head by an errant ball at a time when he should have been wearing his helmet, but wasn’t.
About a week later Quentin was scared. After a practice in which he became aware that “he couldn’t see right”, his mother called with significant concerns. Based on what she described over the phone, I told her to bring him into the office immediately. The newly minted graduate of our private practice Residency program, Dr. Montenare, evaluated Quentin and noted acquired nystagmus and other signs that pointed to swelling in the brain.
Quentin was imaged in the ER, and subsequently managed by us in conjunction with an osteopathic physician who is a concussion specialist. With rest of his visual abilities he was ultimately able to handle his classroom studies effectively, and resume baseball activities. I have high hopes that he may someday appear in front of an admiring March crowd, in Clearwater, Florida, because the village that raised him was tuned in to the signs, symptoms, and sequelae of brain injury and its treatment. Other teenagers, who remain undetected, undiagnosed, or untreated, are not as fortunate. It is this imbalance that Brain Injury Awareness Month can serve to correct.