Using Sports to Reach Your Patients

By Mary Anne C. Murphy, OD October 24, 2016

Finally. The kids are back in school, phew! We made it through another summer with minimal bloodshed, despite the incessant adolescent fighting. This time of year is so peaceful to me—quiet house, crisp and cool fall weather, back-to-school rush at the office has subsided—everything is as it should be. We are back into the routine.

But this is not a time to rest easy; this is a unique time to take advantage of the fact that folks are “getting things in order” before the hectic holiday season. As I sit and watch my son play hockey, I am reminded that this is the best time of year to remind parents about protecting their children’s eyes and enhancing their vision during athletic activities. Whether it is football, soccer, swimming, or other more specialized sports like archery, riflery, fencing, equestrian events or even battle-botting, kids deserve to have the best vision.

In our office, we run special promotions at this time of year as a way of encouraging parents to think of specialized eyewear for their children. It seems these days that very few children participate in only one activity, so it takes time to explore them all with a thorough case history, but when you invest the time, the results will pay out tenfold. Parents and children alike become your best referral sources.

When we think about sports-eyewear, we often think about clunky old wraparound goggles—and I believe our patients still equate the concept of sports eyewear similarly. In our current ophthalmic marketplace, we now have amazing offerings for sports eyewear for both children and adults from well-respected vendors like Nike. 

After the Olympic coverage of Nike’s new Wing, making the transition to a conversation with parents about performance eyewear for kids is a breeze. Don’t forget to discuss specialty tints and materials as well. We have gone as far as encouraging patients to bring in their sports equipment to aid in the best fit of their eyewear—referring to both the physical fit and prescription fit. For instance, I arrived at the office recently to witness our associate doctor and our intern standing in the field adjacent to our office with a patient yielding a rifle, while they demonstrated various trial lenses that allowed her to use her scope most efficiently. We routinely ask children to bring in helmets so that their eyewear can be custom fit underneath. Another example where this becomes imperative is in archery where the bowstring is brought in such close proximity to the face, the eyewear must be very form fitting to prevent interference.

When we think about sports eyewear, we often think about protective sports eyewear. However, I would attest that some of my best success stories are a result of fitting contact lenses to enhance performance for sports. I have seen this play out best for gymnastics, figure skating, and hockey. With gymnastics and figure skating, we don’t have any projectiles we need to shield from, so the choice for contacts seems obvious. For hockey, in the past I have used protective eyewear, but recently, with the requirement of face shields on helmets for most age groups, eyewear becomes redundant and many of our young players find their spectacles to be cumbersome under the helmet, and the transition to contact lenses has been eye opening, pun intended.

For some of the kids, they become regular contact lens wearers as part of the transition. For others, we fit daily disposables for use during the season, which is just another great way for them to learn early that one does not have to choose a single mode of vision correction to suit all needs.

As I see it, you'll probably see immediate responses if you run a marketing campaign at this time of year to educate parents on enhancing the performance and protection of their child's vision. I feel so lucky that we can provide this service to the kids in our practice and have been humbled by the referrals we receive when parents share their experiences. I trust that many of my colleagues could share the same stories.

What campaigns have you put forth that led to patient referrals? 

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