Golf, Your Fitness Activities, and Keratoconus

Playing golf or tennis can seem like excellent fitness activities for a sports enthusiast during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike volleyball or soccer, golf or tennis can enable participation in a sports activity that facilitates social distancing. However, playing a decent game of golf or tennis can pose a special challenge for keratoconus-afflicted people. Indeed, the myopia, astigmatism, and light-sensitivity that are typical symptoms of keratoconus can make playing golf or tennis a frustrating experience. Yet, staying fit is important for overall health and aids the immune system. The following describes the reasons keratoconus can affect your eyesight, and ways to stay fit if you have keratoconus that enable social distancing.

Cornea Shape and Why It Matters

Thinning of the cornea is a characteristic of keratoconus, and this causes the development of the abnormally-elongated corneal shape associated with this eye disorder (per Johns Hopkins Medicine). The National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD) describes this cone-shaped cornea featured in keratoconus as causing the progressive corneal bulging that typically occurs in this eye disorder. If you have been diagnosed recently with keratoconus (or your child has been diagnosed with this corneal disorder), someone has probably already informed you that the cornea is the normally dome-shaped, clear, outer layer at the front of the eye. Due to the light entering the eye not refracting onto the retina correctly in keratoconus, you may have difficult seeing objects clearly at a not-too-far distance.

People with keratoconus often have both myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism, and therefore need to wear corrective lenses. Consequently, seeing the golf or tennis ball clearly enough to strike the ball with club or racket can be difficult. For some keratoconus-afflicted people with severe myopia and/or astigmatism, trying to locate the golf ball on the green to “tee-off” can be impossible!

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Link Between Collagen and a Healthy Cornea

Connective tissues (such as the cornea and ligaments) are composed of collagen fibers, and these need to be healthy and strong to maintain the correct shape of collagen-filled tissues. The normal shape of the cornea is maintained by the ordered arrangement of collagen fibers, and these can progressively-weaken in keratoconus.

According to an article in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, the progressive vision loss (plus other progressive symptoms) displayed in keratoconus are linked to structural changes in the cornea caused by the weakening of the collagen fibers – such that noticeable changes in the direction of the collagen lamellae often occur. For this reason, ophthalmologists may recommend collagen cross-linking surgery for some people living with keratoconus.

One of the most common symptoms of keratoconus – besides worsened eyesight – is photophobia. This sensitivity to light can interfere with enjoying an outdoor fitness activity on a sunny day for someone with keratoconus, and even when vision is corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. For a keratoconus-afflicted person, cornea pain can be exacerbated by sunlight and glare. Consequently, this can quickly turn preferred outdoor fitness activities into a frustrating and painful experience.

Using an Exercycle, Treadmill, or Ski Exercise Machine to Promote Fitness

For a keratoconus-afflicted person with moderate-to-severe vision loss and/or photophobia, purchasing an exercycle, treadmill, or ski exercise machine for daily home use during the Covid-19 pandemic can enable staying fit while practicing social distancing. Even in a keratoconus-afflicted person with minimal-to-moderate vision loss and/or photophobia, switching to an in-home exercise routine can prevent getting hit in the eye by an unseen golf or tennis ball – which which can worsen keratoconus symptoms!

Obviously, an exercycle, treadmill, or ski exercise machine cannot replace the enjoyment obtained in participating in a sports activity such as golf or tennis, but it can enable the keratoconus-afflicted person to stay fit while practicing social distancing during the current pandemic.

If you are experiencing worsening vision or photophobia due to keratoconus, consider contacting the Precision Keratoconus Center to determine the appropriate treatment for you.

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