On May 30, 2019, ESPN televised the highly anticipated Scripps National Spelling Bee. The competition was so fierce this year that they were starting to run out of words for their contestants to spell as they entered the final 20th round. Jacques Bailly, the event’s pronouncer, stated: “we’re throwing the dictionary at you and thus far you are showing the dictionary who is boss.” This was a historic year for the event as it crowned eight co-champions for the first time in bee history! Usually, by the 16th round, the competition has less than four competing for the title so this was definitely one for the record books! In its 92nd annual event, there have been six two-way ties in its history, but never eight battling for the prestigious title and cash prize.

On May 30, 2019, ESPN televised the highly anticipated Scripps National Spelling Bee. The competition was so fierce this year that they were starting to run out of words for their contestants to spell as they entered the final 20th round. Jacques Bailly, the event’s pronouncer, stated: “we’re throwing the dictionary at you and thus far you are showing the dictionary who is boss.” This was a historic year for the event as it crowned eight co-champions for the first time in bee history! Usually, by the 16th round, the competition has less than four competing for the title so this was definitely one for the record books! In its 92nd annual event, there have been six two-way ties in its history, but never eight battling for the prestigious title and cash prize.

As I was watching the spelling bee, live, I could not help but notice that out of the eight remaining contestants six of them were wearing glasses. Out of the eight remaining, the ages ranged from 12-14 years old. Myopia, also known as near-sightedness, “is expected to become a leading cause of permanent blindness around the world and that by 2050 there will be an estimated 5 billion myopes in the world with high myopes expected to account for 1 billion of that amount.”1 Myopia has become the buzz around town so to speak as optometrists and parents are becoming more aware of its severity and trying to do everything they can to slow it down as much as possible. When a child is about to enter high school “the risk of myopia progression is induced more by the environment rather than the age they are.”2 Abhijay Kodali, one of the eight co-champions, told CNN that he “typically studies for four to five hours on weekdays”, but as the competition got closer, he stated, “I ramped it up and studied as much as I could maybe an extra one or two hours, and 10 hours on the weekends, just depending on if I had any homework.” “Once myopia develops in a child, it almost always increases in severity”3 and “earlier onset means higher myopia.”4 Studies have also shown that “higher levels of school and post-school professional education are associated with more myopic refraction.”5

Many of these students who compete for the spelling bee or play piano or violin are continuously looking at reading material or computer screens not only at a very close distance but also for several long hours. They are our stars of the future as many of them will get into elite institutions and one day become artists, musicians, doctors, surgeons, lawyers, researchers, engineers, principals, superintendents, etc. Practice makes perfect as the more they do these tasks the more proficient they will become at their craft however myopia is lurking in the balance. I urge all of you who read this article that it is great to do these things however visual breaks are of utmost importance so that your eyes can relax the tension that is put upon them when looking at close reading material. Every 20-30 minutes practice your craft that is required of you up close and then the next 20-30 minutes go play outside so your eyes can thank you!


References:

  1. Holden BA, Fricke TR, Wilson DA, Jong M, Naidoo KS, Sankaridurg P, Wong TY, Naduvilath TJ, Resnikoff S. Global prevalence of high myopia and temporal trends from 2000 through 2050. Ophthalmology. 2016 May;123(5):1036-42.
  2. Jong M, He M, Holden BA, Li W, Sankaridrug P, Chen X, Navadiluth T, Smith EL, Morgan IG, Ge J. The rate of myopia progression in children who become highly myopic. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014 April; 55(13):3636
  3. Goss DA, Cox VD. Trends in the change of clinical refractive error in myopes. J Am Optom Assoc 1985; 56:608-13.
  4. Flitcroft,D. (2012). The complex interactions of retinal, optical and environmental factors in myopia aetiology. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research.31(6): 622-660.
  5. Mirshahi A, Ponto K, Hoehn R, Zwiener I, Zeller T, Lackner K, Beutel M, Pfeiffer N. Myopia and level of education. American Acad of Ophthal. 2014 Oct; Vol 121(10): 2047-2052.