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The Invisible Epidemic

Reprinted from AOA Focus, Writtten by Will Pinkston


ScullShake it off—three words with serious implications for head injury victims, whether harm comes on the all field, battlefield or simply out of left field. It’s a troubling issue with an obscure, ubiquitous nature. New awareness and research thrusts concussions center stage, and optometry is poised to make a significant difference. TBI 

Derek Cunningham, O.D., knows a thing or two—make it three—about concussions, but not only from a clinical viewpoint; he’s experienced three “bad boys” himself.

A safety for the University of Waterloo, Dr. Cunningham wore the Warriors’ black and gold while playing Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) football throughout his collegiate career. And it was while wearing his No. 12 uniform that Dr. Cunningham, AOA Sports Vision Section (SVS) immediate past chair, learned his first lesson in the school of hard knocks.
“There are some things you can help when it comes to concussions, and some you really can’t,” he says.  “And this was probably the worst.” Dr. Cunningham recalls making a play on the ball, mid-game, and sprinting down the sideline to pick up yardage before ducking out of bounds. That’s when the worst happened—an unsuspecting hit jostled him to the ground where his helmeted  head struck a small concrete water barrier.


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