With the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament in France this week, Optical Express has identified some of the most serious eye health problems suffered by footballers.
The multiple has compiled its ‘Eye Injury XI’ – a team of players who are notable not just for their performance but also their eye problems – to encourage football fans to care for their eye health. A social media campaign is also taking place as part of the initiative.
The multiple is highlighting that glaucoma, diplopia and central serous retinopathy may not be as common on the pitch as hamstring injuries, but they are among the vision problems that have forced top footballers onto the sidelines.
Optical Express’ chosen line-up includes renowned players from previous Euro competitions – Edgar Davids, Paul Scholes, Philippe Mexes, Genaro Gattuso and Christiano Ronaldo.
Optical Express chief medical director, Dr Steve Schallhorn, said: “Thankfully incidents suffered by the ‘Eye Injury XI’ are relatively uncommon examples, but accidents and injuries do happen, even to elite athletes.
“It is crucial that head and eye injuries are taken seriously by those on and off the pitch. Some symptoms may not manifest themselves straight away, but anybody who suffers a head injury, concussion, abrasion or knock to the eye should seek specialist help,” he advised.
Dr Schallhorn also urged football fans to protect their eye health by undergoing regular eye examinations.
“Like visiting the dentist, eye examinations should be part of your regular health care,” said Dr Schallhorn. “Eye tests aren’t just about helping you to see. They can also detect other serious health conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol, strokes and brain tumours.
“Early diagnosis of an eye or health condition could prevent or delay more serious damage,” he highlighted.
The ‘Eye Injury XI’
The multiple’s chosen goalkeeper is Gordon Banks (Stoke City, Leicester City and England). Viewed as one of England’s finest ever goalkeepers, Mr Banks was injured in a car crash driving home from training with Stoke City in 1972.
A shard of glass caught his right eye costing him his binocular vision and effectively ended his professional career.
Among the multiple’s chosen strikers, Real Madrid’s talismanic striker Christiano Ronaldo (Manchester United and Portugal) took an elbow to the face in the opening minutes of a 2012 La Liga game against Levante.
After being patched up on the sidelines, he went on to score before being benched for the second half. After the match it was reported that the Portuguese had lost vision in both eyes and could not go on.
The defenders are Andy Wilkinson (Stoke City), who suffered a concussion in an FA Cup tie in 2015 that temporarily blinded his right eye before developing into vertigo, nausea and balance problems.
Described by the multiple as a fan favourite, ‘Wilko’ is the first professional footballer to retire as a direct result of concussion.
In 2013, AC Milan defender Philippe Mexes (Roma and France) missed a Champions League clash with Celtic due to central serous retinopathy. It is believed that the Frenchman’s case was caused by his overuse of sunbeds.
While paying for Watford in 2009, Jay DeMerit (Watford, Vancouver Whitecaps and USA) suffered a corneal abrasion while removing a contact lens.
The American’s eye became severely infected and he had to undergo a corneal transplant to save his sight. However, he made a full recovery and went on to start every game for his country in the 2010 World Cup.
In the chosen midfielders, West Ham midfielder Alex Song (Arsenal, Barcelona and Cameroon) caused a Twitter storm when he appeared against Manchester City in January wearing orange protective glasses.
However, not long into the game, he ditched them and commented afterwards that although he has been advised to wear them for an eye condition, he struggles to see clearly through them, particularly under floodlights.
Edgar Davids (Tottenham Hotspur, Ajax, Barcelona, Juventus, Milan and The Netherlands) was the star of one of the famous football adverts of all time and was arguably as well-known for his footballing ability as he was for his eyewear. Like Song, he wore protective glasses after suffering from glaucoma in his right eye.
World Cup winner and controversy magnet Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan and Italy) suffered from vision problems ahead of the 2011–12 season.
In a home game against Lazio, he collided with teammate Alessandro Nesta and was substituted. He was later diagnosed with sixth nerve palsy causing diplopia in his right eye.
Paul Scholes’ 2006 season with Manchester United was ended prematurely when he went down with a head-knock at Birmingham City.
The England international complained of double vision for months afterwards. He was diagnosed with bleeding behind his right eye and was ordered to avoid physical activity for six months.
Dean Shiels (Rangers, Hibernian and Northern Ireland) had an operation to remove his right eye two years into his time at Hibs.
When he was eight, the Northern Irishman had been involved in a domestic accident that left him permanently blind in one eye. However, 10 years after having it removed, Shiels played a role in Rangers’ return to the top flight of Scottish Football.
In January Newcastle’s Siem De Jong (Ajax and The Netherlands) was accidentally poked in the eye during training. He was wearing contact lenses at the time, and one was pushed into his eye.
The Dutchman was rushed to hospital but was discharged without serious harm or long term injury, but sporting what Steve McLaren described as “the biggest black eye ever.”