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An opportunity has arisen to sit down to talk cricket and eyecare with optometrist Simon Falk across the road from his practice on the outskirts of Roundhay Park in Leeds.
We’re at the back of Timoney’s café and immediately slip into that easy conversation where two people who share a love of cricket seamlessly find common ground.
Simon’s credentials in the realm of sport stretch to being the Optometrist to Leeds Carnegie, Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire County Cricket Club. In the world of professional sport, crystal-clear vision and the best eyesight possible are part and parcel of doing everything you can do to prepare on and off the field.
His work has involved England men and women’s cricket teams while Simon’s visual skills training has caught the attention of a number of high-profile sportsmen and women.
Here’s a question for you. How important is your eyesight to you? I’ll go first and there’s a disparity between what I think is the truth and the actual truth. I wear glasses for short-sightedness and one eye is a significantly stronger prescription. Think an old-fashioned beer glass and you’re not far wrong.
I think I care about my eyesight and what happens to it. Who wouldn’t, right? But when was the last time I had an eye test? It’s got to the stage where Specsavers have given up sending reminders through the post because the text now reads: ‘Dinosaurs roamed the earth the last time you got your eyes checked.’
Certain things in life naturally slip down the pecking order and caring for our eyesight, crazily, is sometimes one of them. We then get talking about the perception of value.
Down the years, I’ve generally believed (and I think this is a common view) that the price of glasses are pretty expensive but what price improved eyesight for a number of years? Equally, the psychology of what we deem is worth spending money on is a fascinating area.
I’ve been that person who has winced at the cost of a trip to the optician (or dentist) but in the same month happily and frivolously spent on a night out or an indulgent surf around Amazon. Our health, it seems, matters but only to a point.
Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those articles where we pull you up on your supposed shortcomings and then lambast you. It was just one of a number of discussions that formed part of a fascinating half hour.
The same concept around what’s important to us is applicable in the world of cricket. We’ll often think nothing of spending hundreds of pounds on a new cricket bat but a cricket helmet – that may one day be called upon to protect us from serious harm – well, that feels a bit steep at £100.
Our own perception of what constitutes value and our rationale behind that is intriguing and the same applies to safeguarding your eyesight; a fairly fundamentally important consideration you’d think but how often do we all get our eyes checked or replace our glasses or contacts?
To return to Simon, he’s played league cricket in Yorkshire for a number of clubs and has a close affinity with North Leeds Cricket Club, just up the road from where his business is based.
He has a plethora of amusing anecdotes relating to cricket and the seemingly dry area of eyecare. Not least how things used to be in the professional game where players wearing contact lenses for county or international cricket would think nothing of having just a single pair and no back-up.
Simon Falk Eyecare might have the pedigree of having worked closely with some famous names – Tim Bresnan went to Simon for his laser eye surgery – but it’s with those that play sport, to whatever standard, on cricket squares up and down Yorkshire every Saturday where it’s clear there’s a passion.
Junior cricket is one such eye-opener, if you pardon the dubious word play. The balance in amateur cricket between enforcing sensible measures and being seen to interfere unduly is a tricky balance.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has safety recommendations that cover weight or hard ball to use, pitch size, type of ball, stumps and pitch. There are also minimum fielding distances for young players and also safety guidance for wearing helmets so where might vision and eyewear fit into all of this?
You could reasonably argue before you don the whites, strap on pads and helmet and go out to bat, having looked after your eyesight – whether that’s up-to-date eye testing, appropriate glasses or sunglasses – is no less crucial. This clearly falls under the parent’s remit but there’s a case for emphasising its importance.
With adults, well, we’re sometimes a law unto ourselves. As someone who plays league cricket in glasses, I have had the same pair with reactive lenses for years.
They do the job (a fairly base requirement you’d imagine) – except for their tendency to ping off as I strain for that elusive yard of extra pace and my head position at the delivery stride flops alarmingly.
Bowlers with glasses are a rare breed on the cricket field and I welcome feedback from other bowlers but I find strapping your glasses with some sort of cord at the back to keep them on is both a fashion faux pas (I can cope with that) and it only tends to give you vision that bounces in tune with the spectacles.
One of the aspects of what appealed about collaborating with Simon on a sponsored article on eyecare and cricket was Simon Falk Eyecare’s position as independent opticians not tied to any one manufacturer.
So, with frames, their generous claim on their website that ‘although we cannot stock everything, we can source just about anything…’ looks to hold true with, amongst others, Zeiss, Seiko, Hoya and Rodenstock lenses.
Contact lens make a lot more sense for cricket but I’ve never been willing to jab my finger in my eye repeatedly. The choice today is remarkable and perhaps even exciting.
Contact lenses vary from one-day disposables to something called ‘overnight vision correction (ORTHOK)’ – a non-surgical alternative to laser eye surgery, giving the freedom from contact lenses or glasses during the day.
With overnight vision correction, the contact lens is worn only at night and corrects short-sightedness while you sleep. Assuming you’re short-sighted to begin with.
Innovation is key in this corner of West Yorkshire so Simon’s team at Oakwood are a Johnson & Johnson partner practice, and also assist Manchester University with their clinical trials on contact lenses and solutions.
Meanwhile, sunglasses are a staple each season on the cricket field and their design and lenses have adapted as technologies advance. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for so it’s a false economy to buy cheap sunglasses that aren’t bespoke to your eyesight.
Moreover, you risk damaging your eyesight believing you’re adequately protected when you may not be.
Whether it’s glasses, contacts or sunglasses, the best advice is to see a suitably qualified optician. As for shades, you’re going to want to get a pair that filter and protect you from UVA, UVB and blue light. It’s not just that flaming orb in the sky that can cause havoc but variants of light that you don’t see.
For the average cricketer, sunlight protection might not figure high up their agenda but judging a steepling catch at long on with the glint of the sun and relying on shades that were dug out of the bargain bucket at the supermarket is asking for trouble.
Simon Falk Eyecare can advise on the dangers of all aspects of UV and sunlight protection for all tasks where sun filters maybe needed. They specialise in Serengeti and Maui Jim polarised lenses, Oakley and Adidas sports lenses.
After all, let’s be honest. It goes beyond mere functionality, you’ve got to look the part too so Simon can source major fashion brands such as Adidas, Oakley, Prada and RayBan.
Beyond UV filtering, they have to offer clarity and be up to the rough and tumble of cricket away from the cucumber sandwiches at tea.
Ultimately, sports vision isn’t exclusively about an eye examination and improving co-ordination – it also covers the provision of glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses for specific and general tasks.
We end up talking about laser eye surgery, at my prompting. For many, it still remains off the agenda – the perceived risks seemingly terrifying but if you do your research, get sensible, specialist advice then make an informed choice, it remains a viable option.
Simon’s had laser eye surgery himself with Accuvison; their laser eye treatment partner and benefitted from over a decade of clear vision without the need for contacts or glasses.
It’s not a cheap treatment (in the region of several thousand pounds) but the potential to radically improve your eyesight for years is the temptation.
He’s quick to point out that his Leeds practice actually rejects a percentage of candidates for surgery because of risks and suitability. That duty of care comes across loud and clear as I pepper him with questions.
As it happens, I’ve had laser eye treatment before so can offer an insight of sorts into what it’s like. This wasn’t cosmetic eye surgery to improve vision as such; more a rushed appointment down in London some years back to repair a detached retina.
No, it wasn’t due to a rapid over of bouncers from Dale Steyn. But caused by an exploding glass beer bottle at university. Wild times. The resulting eye repair involved a laser closing up a hole and while nervous at the time, it was painless, quick and did the job.
There was more angst around being unable to make it on a lads holiday to Turkey departing the next day – which sadly, probably reinforces my earlier general point about eyecare and our priorities. But you might all be far more responsible than I am. Or have better eyesight.
The key to many a successful business meeting is the quality of the tea and cakes. Timoney’s café look after us very well – they barely raise an eyebrow when I plug in the iPad and hungrily begin to slurp up all of their electricity.
As Simon dashes off back to work across the road, I attack the sticky toffee pudding that is so good it takes phenomenal willpower not to lick the plate. Eyes clearly bigger than my belly but I’m fairly sure there’s no prescription out there for that…