County Eye Doctor On An Olympic Quest

February 20, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

In his dressed-for-success business suit and perfectly styled hair, Dr. Barry Fuller didn't look like he was getting ready to participate in the Winter Olympics.

In fact, the busy eye doctor said he barely had time for a game of tennis, his favorite sport.

But ever since he went to the 1992 Olympic Games, the Harford County optometrist had his eye on Lillehammer, Norway.

He's now there fulfilling his dream.

Dr. Fuller is one of 23 eye-care practitioners from around the country -- and Maryland's only representative -- chosen to provide eye screenings to Olympic athletes.

"Sports vision is the fastest growing part of sports medicine," Dr. Fuller said. "It's not just how well [the athletes] can see, but how fast they can react."

Before he left for the Games, he sat in his bright, airy office in Havre de Grace surrounded by paperwork and his reading glasses. He tossed out terms such as eye-hand coordination, depth perception and peripheral vision as he discussed the importance of testing athletes.

"Strong visual skills provide the winning edge in competition," said the 50-year-old doctor, who started his optometric practice 25 years ago.

The Baltimore native, who grew up in Mount Washington, said he was selected to go to Lillehammer because of a "close working relationship with Bausch & Lomb," one of seven worldwide sponsors of the 1994 Olympics and the force behind the Vision Center, where the eye screenings are being given.

"We picked doctors involved in sports vision," said Kelly Ann Sherry, a Bausch & Lomb spokeswoman, who is in Lillehammer coordinating the eye-care professionals and athletes.

Dr. Fuller said his practice is limited to the needs of local athletes who are in the market for sports contact lenses or eye gear for racquetball.

"I don't have the machinery here" for more sophisticated testing, said Dr. Fuller. "But I've done clinical research for Bausch & Lomb in the past."

Even before the Games began last week, athletes were stopping by for the screenings, Ms. Sherry said. "We tell them they can't forget about the eye. It's a muscle, too."

The tests, which measure how well athletes use their eyes with their hands, feet and body, are voluntary and take about 20 minutes, she said.

The results won't be given to coaches until after the Olympics, though. "We don't want to throw anyone off," Ms. Sherry said.

The information will then go into a data base for sports vision experts worldwide, so they can study the relationship between vision and sports performance.

"We'll be comparing all the information," she said.

The study, which was started at the Winter and Summer Games in 1992, will also continue after the 1994 Games.

Dr. Fuller is already looking forward to going to Atlanta in the summer of 1996 and to future Olympics.

"I can't wait for the year 2000 in Australia," said the doctor, who travels around the country consulting with optometrists in between seeing patients three days a week.

In addition to the excitement of testing the athletes, Dr. Fuller, who visited the Vision Centers in Barcelona, Spain, and Albertville, France, four years ago, had high hopes for his trip.

"It's so much fun," he said. "The camaraderie among the countries is great.

"Everyone roots for each other."

Dr. Fuller might also get hands-on experience.

"We have an opportunity to ride with a bobsled team on a run," said Dr. Fuller, who is traveling with his wife, Kathy, general manager of his eye practice.

The speedy ride may be just what the doctor ordered.

"The more I have on my plate the more I like it," he said.

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