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With a majority of people being quarantined in their homes screen time has increased dramatically for work, school or gaming/viewing platforms. The coronavirus pandemic has halted all major sporting events with the biggest of them all being the Olympics as well as Special Olympics for 2020. With no gyms to go to the athletes have been training from home until the games reopen again in 2021.

Since March, we as a society have been forced to deal with change and uncertainty with a powerful impact on our health and mental health. Because of this Special Olympics International has been trying to figure out new ways to help promote fitness and health during these difficult times. As we know the games are postponed for now, however for 11 states and 35 Special Olympics athletes there will be a live stream happening on Saturday, May 30, 2020, at 3 PM eastern time where these athletes will be competing in Forza Motorsport 7! This is considered the ultimate racing e-sport (electronic sport) for players and viewers featuring over 700 cars to race on across 32 locations. Xbox along with Microsoft teamed up with Special Olympics and will be broadcasting the virtual race on Mixer, Xbox YouTube or Twitch. Fans will be streaming to see who will be crowned the racing champion.

With more chair time and screen time, playing video games can improve eye-hand coordination and eye tracking, but it can also put some visual stress on the eyes. It is always important to follow the 20-20-20 rule. For every twenty minutes someone spends looking at a screen they need to look at something at least twenty feet away for at least twenty seconds. With no pause feature in live game settings, it may be hard to follow this rule so they need to be more conscientious of blinking more often. The more focused we are to a video game or tablet device the less our eyes blink and will lead to dry eye disease even in young children. Try to keep the eyes moist and lubricated by first drinking lots of water to stay hydrated and then if needed use a preservative-free artificial tear while remembering to blink fully and often!   

Also, many states throughout the U.S. will be launching a virtual summer games to keep the spirit alive for their athletes, coaches, unified partners and volunteers at the comfort of their own home. Athletes will be required to submit their scores/times during the first week of June and will also have a virtual awards ceremony. Clinical directors of each of the disciplines such as Opening Eyes Lions Club International (Optometry), Healthy Hearing (Audiology) and Special Smiles (Dentistry) have been sending in five-minute videos filled with education or tips for the athletes to stay healthy. The athletes would then receive an incentive for completing those videos. The more we can include everyone with the beauty of sports and health is a win-win situation! For more information about Special Olympics or ways to volunteer or donate for a good cause please feel free to visit their website https://www.specialolympics.org/ or can reach out to your state Special Olympics headquarters.

Vittorio Mena
Co-Clinical Director of Special Olympics Lions Club International Opening Eyes Program and Sports Vision Director at Optical Academy. I get to service athletes and coaches yearly!

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