Dwyane Wade and the NBA’s insensitivity to his migraines

by Diana E. Lee

Sports journalists recently discussed discussing Dwyane Wade’s migraines and his decision to try wearing goggles to deal with light sensitivity.

News outlets like ESPN proved once again they know how to treat migraine disease as a serious, burdensome medical issue in reporting on Wade’s health situation. But somehow at the eleventh hour the story got way more complicated and the NBA revealed they don’t quite “get” migraines.

Dwyane Wade has lived with migraines for many years. They usually don’t interfere with his job playing professional basketball for the Miami Heat, but this year they did. He missed a game due to a lengthy migraine attack and found himself dealing with lingering light sensitivity and visual disturbances. By trial and error in practice he found that tinted goggles were helpful in allowing him to play without making his head worse. He announced he would play in the goggles in a game. But just before game time the NBA said he couldn’t. When the NBA officials examined the goggles they said they would give Wade an advantage by making it impossible for opposing players to see his eyes.

In fairness, headline writers may have tried to create controversy where there really wasn’t any: the Heat found Wade a different pair of goggles to use and the NBA approved them. Unfortunately, that pair seemed to interfere with his ability to play more than they might have helped.

But seriously, what’s the problem, NBA? The goggles were so heavily tinted opposing players wouldn’t be able to see his eyes, which would give him a competitive advantage? He’s trying to find a workable solution to a medical problem. Would it have been so hard to permit him an exception for his health condition and allow him to wear the goggles he’d been practicing in? That pair had a host of benefits: he knew their tint was sufficient to help with the light sensitivity, how they fit, how it felt to have them on his face and that they were comfortable enough to be worn while he played.

Unfortunately their reaction is similar to what people experience every single day when their migraines make it difficult for them to do their work. I know the NBA doesn’t owe any of us anything, but their bad decision is a depressing reminder of how misunderstood migraines and all their nasty symptoms can be.

Diana E. Lee is a chronic migraine patient who blogs at Somebody Heal Me.

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