Professional athletes are often viewed as superheroes. They show not only incredible physical strength, but also mental toughness and are recognized as being the best of the best. However, they are susceptible to injuries and health conditions just like the rest of us.
Athletes of all ages who suffer from an injury or chronic condition need appropriate treatment in order to get back onto the field/court as soon as possible. These athletes who continue to play while living with treatable conditions and injuries are living proof that some obstacles don’t have to stop you from pursuing your dreams.
Professional athletes suffering from keratoconus are no different. If keratoconus is diagnosed early and treated appropriately, those with keratoconus may not have to stop doing what they love, such as sports and other activities.
Here are five professional athletes who are living with keratoconus and killing it on the field/court. Continue reading to find out how football, basketball, and baseball players have been managing the condition to keep playing at the highest level.
Brandon Williams (Baltimore Ravens)
After a lifetime of near-perfect vision, Brandon Williams, defensive tackle for the Baltimore Raven, found himself with an unexpected vision diagnosis. Brandon sat in his usual spot in the Ravens’ meeting room, but his ability to see the dry-erase board became worse and worse. Realizing his vision issues could affect his performance on the field, he knew he needed to get his vision corrected as soon as possible. Brandon turned to FDA approved corneal cross-linking to preserve his vision. Now, he is able to step on the field knowing that his vision isn’t holding him back from succeeding in his NFL career.
Read more about Brandon’s Keratoconus Journey here.
Shanice Cole (Richmond Black Widows)
Growing up, Shanice was a talented athlete who dreamed of competing at the highest level of sports. After playing four years of division one college basketball, she was offered a chance to play
professionally in Switzerland. Upon her return to the U.S., Shanice was shocked to learn that she was living with keratoconus and became worried about how this condition would affect her quality-of-life. During this time, Shanice was determined to stay active and started playing women’s professional tackle football. After careful consideration, Shanice decided to receive FDA approved cross-linking, and within a couple of weeks, Shanice was back on the field and playing football. Read more about Shanice’s Keratoconus Journey here.
Steph curry (Golden State Warriors)
In April 2019, Steph Curry, an American professional basketball player for the Golden State Warriors, announced that he is living with keratoconus. When squinting became “normal” for him,
Steph knew that he should probably be fitted for glasses or contacts. It wasn’t until he saw a slight decline in his shooting that he realized he needed to address the problem as soon as possible. When he finally went to be fitted for contact lenses, he received unexpected news – he had been living with keratoconus for years. Now, thanks to specialty contact lenses, he is able to see more clearly on the court. Read more about Steph’s Keratoconus Journey here.
Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky)
Despite being a 6-foot-1 guard for the Chicago Sky, WNBA player Diamond DeShields struggled with distorted vision caused by keratoconus for years. Diamond started to notice that the condition was affecting her aggressiveness and confidence on the court, sometimes preventing her from seeing play calls and signals from her coaches and teammates. To manage her condition, Diamond began wearing scleral lenses, and saw an immediate
improvement in her vision. Still worried about protecting her eyesight and lenses during practices and games, Diamond started to wear protective sports goggles. Read more about her Keratoconus Journey here.
Tommy Pham (Tampa Bay Rays)
In September 2008, Tommy Pham, an American professional baseball player for the Tampa Bay Rays was diagnosed with keratoconus. While lenses have given him the opportunity to play the game he loves, he knows how difficult this condition can be to manage. During one game, his contact lens even popped out. Recently, Tommy was the first person to be recognized as an ambassador for the National Keratoconus Foundation, an honor he feels privileged to receive.
Be Your Own Advocate
These professional athletes are proof that keratoconus doesn’t have to control your life, and just because you are diagnosed with the condition, doesn’t mean you have to stop doing what you love. Get your eyes checked, especially if you notice vision changes, and do everything you can to keep your eyes healthy and protected. If you play sports, there are a variety of available options to protect your eyes while playing sports and being active, such as the protective goggles that Diamond uses.
There are risks to receiving cross-linking treatment, including infection keratitis. For more information on FDA approved cross-linking, see Prescribing information.