ASK THE MXPERTS: ONE-EYED HEROES OF MOTOCROSS
My son lost the vision in his left eye to retinoblastoma when he was 4 years old. Now, at 12 years old, he is fascinated by motocross and wants me to buy him a bike. Of course, as any parent would be, I am leery of allowing him to do a sport where vision and depth perception are so important. Have there ever been any motocross racers who have suffered the same problem?
Yes. 1952 500 World Champion Victor Leloup, who lost an eye in the Second World War, won his World motocross title with only one eye. Three-time 250 AMA National Champion Tony DiStefano lost the vision in his left eye in a workshop accident and missed the 1980 season, returned to racing the AMA Nationals in 1981. Grant Langston, the 2000 FIM 125 World Champion and 2007 AMA 450 National Champion, was diagnosed with cancer in his left eye in 2009. He returned to racing in 2010 and scored three top-10 finishes in the AMA Supercross series.
These three riders aren’t the only athletes to compete with vision in only one eye, but they are significant because they lost their sight and returned to racing in a very short time, which points to how quickly the human body can adapt to monocular vision. In fact, scientific studies support the theory that the loss of an eye may theoretically lead to the development of supra-normal vision in the remaining eye. Although a one-eyed person lacks the advantage of binocular summation (the ability to focus on an object with both eyes), the potential improvement in the vision of the remaining eye can outweigh the loss of binocular summation.
Your son has spent most of his life learning the relationship between objects and motion without benefit of binocular vision and, most likely, will be able to ride a motorcycle as well as any 12-year-old.
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