Keeping an eye on the ball

SES, 28 May 2020

The rise and rise of Ross Taylor.

Playing professional sport at the highest level requires an incredible amount of hand-eye coordination. Decisions must be made in a fraction of a second and focus must be exceptional. This makes the story of New Zealand cricketer Ross Taylor that much more incredible.

Ross Taylor has always been a great cricketer. With a combination of explosive power and graceful shots his batting has enthralled crowds around the world since he first joined the Black Caps in 2006.

Since that debut he has become New Zealand’s leading run scorer in both test and one-day games and is the first player in the world to play 100 matches in all three formats of international cricket. Many call him “New Zealand’s greatest batsman” with confidence (although Kane Williamson may have something to say about that in years to come).

It’s hard to believe that he’s achieved such milestones and accolades when, particularly in recent years, his vision has been distinctly compromised by an ongoing eye condition.

“For Taylor the pterygium was a constant presence but not a pressing concern – he was still performing well.” 

Over 10 years ago Taylor became aware of a small growth in his left eye. This was diagnosed as a pterygium – a triangular growth of tissue which spreads over the cornea (the clear front window of the eye). It is an unsurprising diagnosis in a cricketer, given it occurs more commonly in those who live in hot climates or have high ultraviolet light exposure. These risk factors also give rise to the colloquial term for this condition, “surfer’s eye”.

For Taylor the pterygium was a constant presence but not a pressing concern – he was still performing well. 

 

However, in 2015 he was in Australia and, having only scored 0 and 26 in a test match and struggling to see the ball, he decided to see an optometrist. After starting to use prescribed eye drops the next game would be different. He scored 290 runs in Perth – a monumental feat.

In December 2016 he underwent surgery to remove the pterygium. This involves a local anaesthetic to numb the eye, surgical removal of the abnormal growth, and a piece of tissue from under the upper eyelid is used as a graft to fill the space where the pterygium was removed. The graft is either glued or stitched into place, improving the appearance of the eye after surgery and reducing the chance the pterygium will grow back.

Talking to ESPNCricinfo he said “”Two weeks after the operation I had throwdowns with the trainer and I saw the ball swing from the hand. I thought: ‘Geez, I haven’t been able to see that for a while!”

 Since then Ross Taylor has only gotten better and better. Well-known website CricTracker proclaims the Black Cap to be “the second best player… since World Cup 2015”.

The team of eye surgeons at Southern Eye Specialists are experts in the treatment of pterygium. We are able to offer the latest surgical techniques, including the use of fibrin glue (Tisseel), which improves the experience for patients by making the surgery faster and making the recovery from surgery more comfortable. 

 

Need to know more?

Key facts on pterygium

 

Symptoms

  • Red and irritated eye
  • Grittiness or feeling of something in the eye
  • Blurred vision (if the growth covers the pupil or distorts the shape of the clear front window causing a change in eye focus called astigmatism)

Prevention

  • Wear hat and sunglasses outdoors
  • Wear eye protection in dusty and dry conditions
  • Use lubricating eye drops in dry conditions

Treatment

  • Lubricating or anti-inflammatory eye drops help reduce redness and irritation
  • Surgery if symptoms don’t improve with eye drops, the pterygium is large/unsightly, or affects vision