In most cases, vision problems are not the first thing most people think of when talking about traumatic brain injuries. Study after study has shown that more than 2 million Americans who sustain traumatic brain injuries each year suffer some sort of vision problem as a result.

What Are Saccades? How is it Tested in the NFL for Concussions?

Traumatic brain injuries can cause subtle symptoms, such as a slower pace of saccades. Saccades are eye movements that jump between one place to another when you are reading a book. In the NFL, they measure saccade eye movement in concussion tests to see if somebody has suffered a mild concussion. They'll have them make a bunch of eye movements on a page before they play that day so that they can get a benchmark from earlier in the season when everything was fine. Right after the incident or event, they have them repeat the test in which they have to perform quick eye movements across the page and then compare the results.

What Happens to Our Vision After a Traumatic Brain Injury?

When someone suffers a concussion or traumatic brain injury, the effects on their visual system can be severe. The individual may experience changes in their ability to focus, track moving objects, or maintain steady vision. In some cases, their visual system may become entirely disoriented, causing them to lose the ability to perform basic visual tasks or cause a shift in posture, balance, and gait.

For those with severe injuries, their recovery process may involve starting from the very beginning of visual processing by training their brain to maintain fixation, which is the ability to keep their eyes focused on a single target. This skill serves as the foundation for other visual abilities, such as tracking moving objects and depth perception.

Even those who previously had normal visual function may experience changes in their vision after a traumatic brain injury, such as difficulty maintaining steady vision or issues with visual memory. While these issues can be resolved with retraining the brain, it's essential to monitor them following any traumatic brain injury and seek treatment from our neuro optometrist who specializes in treating these conditions.

What Sort of Vision Problems Can be Caused By a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A number of vision problems can arise from a traumatic brain. The following are some specific problems you might encounter:

  • Blurry vision, especially up close
  • Double vision
  • Changes in posture, gait, and balance
  • Decreased peripheral vision
  • Being overwhelmed by too much visual information in your peripheral vision
  • Complete vision loss in one or both eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty focusing or paying attention to tasks
  • Issues with visual memory
  • Reading difficulties
  • Eye aches or pain, or headaches
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