Medical professionals at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have developed a new tinted visor for football helmets that will allow kids with medical-related light sensitivity to participate.

UAB optometrists and ophthalmologists who specialize in retina, neurology, low vision and pediatrics worked with lead medical personnel from the Blazers’ athletics department on the visor.

“Many kids who have severe light sensitivity want to be like other kids, and that means many want to be part of a team playing outdoor sports,” said Kathy Weise, O.D., professor at UAB’s School of Optometry and director of UAB Eye Care Pediatric Optometry Services. “However, the light sensitivity that kids with certain health conditions experience can be significant. We knew we could help maximize comfort, safety and access to play for more kids with special conditions.”

Weise was instrumental in developing BlazerVision, a partnership between UAB Athletics, the School of Optometry and the Department of Ophthalmology, but knew that change needed to start at the high school level.

According to a post on UAB’s website, a team of eye doctors, along with the school’s lead football team physician and athletic trainer, helped develop a list of specific vision and health conditions that may benefit from adding a tinted visor in a football helmet. They then pitched it to the medical director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

“We haven’t seen tinted visors meet regulation standards in sports like football because, although they may seem practical, it may be harder to check the face or the eyes quickly through the visor, or factors like weather may cause the visor to fog up,” Weise said. “So, the tinted visors aren’t for everyone. However, knowing that there are a variety of eye and health conditions that could benefit from having a tinted visor, this is a great first step in keeping these eager kids playing sports that they love, just like their peers." 

The visor was approved by the AHSAA this spring. Physician-recommended tinted visors may now be worn by athletes with “inherited and/or congenital eye conditions that limit useful vision in daylight or bright-light environments.”

We know these eye and systemic conditions aren’t outgrown, so if we are keeping athletes engaged in sports in high school by means of the tinted helmet visor, these kids could have a chance to play in college, too — maybe even as a UAB Blazer,” Weise said. “UAB Football would love to continue to develop ways to enable more kids to stay healthy through all types of sports.”

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.