In June 2016 I had the chance to take care of Gabriel Vasconcelos Ferreira, simply known as Gabriel, AC Milan goalkeeper born in 1992, at that time playing for Cagliari.
He decided to entrust himself with me as he was suffering from compound myopic astigmatism, that is moderate myopia associated with severe astigmatism.
Contact lenses, used by the athlete to correct his defect, invalidated his sports performances: the toric lenses he was using were causing him some insurmountable inconveniences, as they moved at the slightest movement, making the athlete lose his concentration and the temporary correction of the defect, producing insecurity and a delay in the action-reaction time.
For a professional goalkeeper playing in Serie A and the brasilian Seleçao, the eye-hand coordination is fundamental: in the essential moments, it could be devastating to lose this ability even for a second, as it could compromise the final result with no second chance, just like during the football season, or the course of an entire sports career.
More aggravating circumstances are represented by the psychological pressure from the managers and the supporters. Depending on something external and completely out of your control, as in the case of contact lenses, is therefore a source of frustration and loss of confidence for the athlete.
These were the determining factors that convinced Gabriel to undergo a refractive surgery treatment to permanently eliminate his visual defect and get his confidence back.
When I first met Gabriel, his apprehension was tangible. This is an understandable feeling that many of my patients have in common; after all, we were talking about a surgical technique and, if we consider he was only 24 years old, he was a bit afraid of the procedure and just hoped for a final result that could allow him to keep on playing in the international football scene at the highest levels.
Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to operate on many famous athletes. It was exactly my affinity for their world, together with my everlasting passion for competitive sports, that allowed me to create a customizable refractive surgery that, with the assistance of specific protocols, provides the athlete with a vision greater than 10/10, but could reach 20/10 with an overall enhancement of the visual ability.
In Gabriel’s case, ReLex SMILE proved to be the best technique to respond to his visual deficit and his expectations, involving a smaller incidence of post-surgical complications, as well as an immediate recovery with no traumatic risks.
This is a revolutionary technique, as it doesn’t involve the use of “flaps”, so the cornea is safeguarded, therefore more protected, in case of potential blows and ball-hits, frequent traumatisms when it comes to goalkeepers.
The success of a surgery doesn’t just lie in the surgeon’s skills and the technology he used, but also in the relationship of trust and collaboration that is established between the patient and the surgeon during the surgery. As it usually happens when the patient is a professional athlete, – and Gabriel wasn’t an exception – the aptitude of the champion emerges: during the operation his capacity to completely focus brought to an exceptional result. After a quick recovery, the goalkeeper obtained a complete improvement in his vision, obtaining a final visual acuity of 16/10.
I’m always surprised by these great athletes’ ability to maintain a clear mind under any circumstances. As a surgeon, I truly appreciate it when they face an operation with this kind of determination and willpower.
For a surgeon, the successful result and the patient’s satisfaction are the best demonstration of the positive outcome of an operation; the biggest reward is represented by the look of pure joy on Gabriel’s face when he knew that he beat his eye defect with no further complications, and also by further proof that refractive surgery can change your life.