Newswise — With football season well underway at colleges and universities throughout the country, NCAA Division III member Pacific University (Ore.) utilized the skill and expertise of faculty, staff and students within its College of Optometry and its School of Dental Hygiene Studies to make sure the football team's student-athletes were equipped to handle the rigors of the season.

The collaborative effort between the university's athletics medicine team and faculty and students from the College of Optometry and School of Dental Hygiene Studies resulted in preventative healthcare for all football student-athletes in the form of custom mouthpieces and vision screenings during the first week of practice in mid-August.

Fitted mouth guards provide more cushion, and better fit and are more comfortable than generic one-size-fit-all guards. The eye exams were intended to reduce the risk of sports injuries by identifying players who need vision care. Those requiring additional evaluation and/or treatment were referred to the university's vision clinics for more comprehensive exams.

“We have a number of healthcare resources at Pacific through our colleges of Optometry and Health Professions, so why not use them to our advantage?” Head Athletic Trainer Eric Pitkanen said.

Equally important is the valuable clinical experience the fitting and screening sessions provided to Optometry and Dental Hygiene students. Optometry student Zachery Willits, who played football for Pacific as an undergraduate student, was among those who administered the vision screening program. He saw it as an opportunity to gain experience and impress upon football players the importance of vision care.

“When I was playing football, I didn’t realize the importance of having an eye exam,” Willits said. “But now that I’m an optometry student, I recognize how important my vision was to both success in the classroom and on the field.”

Preventative vision screenings and equipment fittings are just two keys to helping athletes stay healthy while maximizing performance. Pacific University's Athletic Medicine team offers these additional tips.

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