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Going for gold


Neil Murray


By Ashleigh McMillan


Young Optometry South Australia held an Olympic-themed CPD lecture on 30 August to give early career practitioners an understanding of sports vision.

The lecture was presented by Neil Murray, who is a clinical educator at Flinders University and was the director of eye services at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. He was also involved with eye care during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Mr Murray said the CPD evening would encourage young optometrists to take steps to understand the vision requirements of different sports, and how to prescribe therapeutics in elite sports.

‘The CPD event will help optometrists to make first-level choices on the strength and efficacy of medication, so they know it will kill any bugs before sporting competition begins,’ he said.

‘In cases like conjunctivitis, optometrists will need to act more aggressively as time might be of the essence, so sometimes it’s important to go one step up in the hierarchy of antibiotic choices.

‘We talked about how to initially arrive at a prescription in the consulting rooms, and then depending on the level of competition, whether optometrists can work out what focus is needed theoretically, or if they may need to have a trip out to the sporting arena to work out what the optimum focus needs to be for that person,’ he said.

Olympic experience

In the run-up to the 2000 Olympics, Mr Murray treated many cases of dry eye due to aeroplane travel, pollen allergies and traumatic injuries from ball sports. During the competition, the medical clinic was open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.

‘We had three consulting rooms working constantly. For many of the people from poorer countries of the world, it’s only when they get to something like the Olympic Games that they can start to access medical care that we take for granted.

‘In the Sydney Olympics and Paralympics, we had full referral rights within the polyclinic. It meant that as an optometrist I could refer the person to medical imaging for an MRI or an CT scan, things you can’t do directly in usual practice in Australia,’ he said.

Mr Murray has worn spectacles for myopia since he was 18 months old and was always a keen sportsman. When he transitioned to contact lenses at 16 years of age, he noticed the positive impact it had on his sporting ability.

An unusual gymnastics case encouraged him to pursue optometry in sports. 

‘The first patient that got me going in this sphere was a male gymnast. He was having problems on the roman rings and was unable to decide when to flip out and do his landing.

‘Just by sitting and talking to the coach, it was explained to me what sighting points the gymnast needed to be able to see up on the roof to make his landing. When gymnasts are doing their large, 360-degree circles, they actually lose their sense of gravity and don’t know which way is up, so they rely much more on their sight,’ Mr Murray said.

One of his current patients is Libby Kosmala OAM, a nine-time Gold medal winner and the oldest Paralympian competing at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic games in 2016.

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