Pupillary Pathways

NFL “Penalizes” Colorblind Football Fans

Posted by Amanda Dexter on Nov 18, 2015 9:00:00 AM
Amanda Dexter
Dr. Amanda K. Dexter received her optometric training at Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, California, where she was Class of 2010 Valedictorian. She also completed a residency in Primary Care and Ocular Disease at the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in San Diego, California. Dr. Dexter is the Manager and Program Coordinator for OptoPrep, the premiere online study resource for the NBEO Part I & II.

colorblind-jetsBills.jpgLast Thursday night sparked an unexpected controversy for colorblind fans of the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets football teams as they were unable to distinguish between the all-red and all-green team uniforms.

The Color Rush campaign is an initiative by the NFL (and designed by Nike) that “combines current and historic uniform colors and designs into one new uniform, honoring the franchise and energizing the fan base.” The NFL is piloting this new idea for four games this season and plans on unveiling the full line up for all teams in 2016. 

Photo Credit:  AP Photo/Seth Wenig

What Happened?

So far, the response to this campaign has been underwhelming, mostly due to the unintentional problems incurred by viewers who had difficulty watching the game because of their red-green colorblindness.

The NFL failed to realize that this problem could potentially impact such a huge portion of their fan base. They stated that they had completed several tests of these uniforms over the summer, both on field and on television, but they admittedly forgot to account for their colorblind fans. The NFL has mentioned that in the future, further enhanced testing (including a colorblind analysis) will be important in designing the team uniforms. 

Photo Credit: SportsLogos.net

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What Does This Mean for Optometrists?

With this topic of colorblindness now blowing up on social media and television, don’t be surprised if your patients begin to ask more questions about color vision deficiencies over the next few weeks.

It is important to make them aware that colorblindness is not actually a form of blindness (the term “blindness” is misleading), but it is a deficiency in the way that a person perceives color. Colorblindness is most commonly an inherited condition that affects an estimated 8% of males, and less than 1% of females (although it can be acquired). Below are a few common questions that you may get asked by your patients in the upcoming weeks. 

What Do Colorblind People See?

A lot of people have this idea that colorblind people see certain colors as just different shades of gray; this is mostly untrue (except in rare forms). Most people who are considered to be colorblind actually do see color, but their color perception is inaccurate, making it easy for them to confuse certain colors.

The most common form of inherited colorblindness is a deficiency in distinguishing between reds and greens, which is why so many football fans found watching the Jets vs. Bills football game so tough to watch. 

Will My Child Be Colorblind?

Patients may also tell you that they are colorblind (or have a family member who is colorblind) and want to know what the chances are that their child will be colorblind. If you think back at the inheritance pattern for red-green colorblindness, you should recall that it is caused by an x-linked recessive gene.

Therefore, a colorblind male will not be able to pass the gene to his sons, but will pass the gene to all of his daughters. His daughters will only be colorblind if their mother was either colorblind, or a carrier. Anytime a mother passes along this x-linked trait to her son, he will be colorblind. Again, a daughter who receives the gene from her mother also has to get the gene from her father to be colorblind. 

Is There Treatment for Colorblindness?

Patients will also likely ask you if there is any treatment for inherited colorblindness. There is currently no cure for colorblindness; however, a lot of research is being conducted on gene therapy, but it will not be considered for humans until proven safe.

Some optometrists are also currently using tinted contact lenses (such as the x-chrom lens) or other specialty spectacle lenses (EnChroma) to help enhance color perception, but this does not fully allow patients to perceive all colors as those with normal color perception would see them. 

Are There Other Types of Colorblindness?

Very rarely do we see someone who has total colorblindness and the inability to perceive any colors. Red-green colorblindness is the most common type of color vision deficiency, but it is also possible to inherit or acquire a blue-yellow color deficiency. So let’s hope that the NFL does’t have a team with all-yellow play a team with all-blue scheduled next!

-Dr. Dexter

The Top 15 Tips and Tricks for Studying for Part I of NBEO®

We’ve put together a ton of great tips and tricks for studying for Part I of NBEO along with two tailored study programs that will help you thoroughly prepare for the big day. Remember, you’ve made it this far and you can totally do this!

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NBEO Part I Study Guide The Top 15 Tips and Tricks for Studying for Part I

Topics: Color Blindness