Dodgers infielder Aaron Miles has had an exciting, and at times frightening, life both on the field and off of it. While playing in the Houston Astros minor league system in 2000, Miles was taken hostage in a hotel room by armed gunmen. One assailant fled the scene as police arrived, and Miles wrestled the remaining gunman to the floor. Police entered the room and shot the gunman while Miles was still grappling with him.
While playing for the St. Louis Cardinals in August of 2008, Miles fouled a ball into the on-deck circle and crushed the left eye socket of teammate Juan Encarnación. The injury effectively ended Encarnación’s baseball career.
Miles was no stranger to vision troubles. He suffered from substandard vision for years and wore corrective contact lenses, but astigmatism in his left eye always troubled him. Impaired vision delayed his recognition of oncoming pitches and resulted in a shorter swing.
Wearing contacts can be problematic for ballplayers. Blinking in bright sunshine or a dry wind can cause temporary blurriness as the contact shifts slightly in the eye. For most people, blurred vision for a fraction of a second means only a minor annoyance, but for a professional baseball player it can mean the minor leagues.
Refractive laser eye surgery and correction of astigmatism can dramatically improve vision, but Miles’ sight was satisfactory for most activities, and he was nervous about surgical eye treatment options. Few things are as frightening as the thought of surgery to an eyeball.
Miles was invited to the Dodgers’ 2011 Spring Training, and he was afraid that he would be relegated to their AAA affiliate. That fear ultimately compelled him to schedule laser surgery to correct his vision.
The results were everything Miles had hoped for and more. His vision improved from less than 20/20 to better than 20/15. Sharper vision allowed him to recognize oncoming pitches more quickly, and that additional time allowed him to lengthen his swing. His career is revitalized, and he credits laser eye surgery for making that possible.
Some people naturally have vision that is better than the 20/20 standard benchmark. Many more, especially athletes, undergo refractive eye treatments to artificially enhance visual acuity. Laser surgery is painless, recovery is rapid, and advances in excimer and femtosecond laser technology and the associated control software continue to increase surgeons’ ability to deliver outstanding results on an almost daily basis.
Although Miles suffered from a visual defect that made his surgery necessary if he was to continue his professional career, some athletes with perfect 20/20 vision elect to undergo eye surgery to gain a competitive advantage. The risks are small and the potential benefits are significant for a skilled player who gains even a thousandth of a second on batting response time.
Les writes about eye surgery for Personal Eyes where you can find out more about eye procedures to suit your lifestyle.