In an ongoing study we analyzed results of visual function tests and op hthalmo logical findings in visually disabled athletes. These are contrasted with classification results of these athletes collected during international competitions. Because classifications of visual impairments are mostly based on visual acuity (VA) so far, but the procedures constituted for the determination of VA do not correspond with the EN-ISO-8596, we took the International Open German Championships in Athletics in Berlin (2005) to compare the conventional measuring methods with those obtained by modern computerized/standardized methods to assess visual function.
PURPOSE: In the context of a long-term study of new methods for multifactorial visual performance diagnostics in the low-vision-field we intend to optimize, standardize and objectify the classification to a fairer one.
METHODS: Initially the existing classification data of 2035 athletes (73.4% male, 26.6% female) of 98 nations were evaluated. During the classification in Berlin, the Freiburg Visual Acuity and Contrast Test (FrACT), a computer supported forced choice test, was carried out in order to measure VA, while conventional methods (S.O.S.H.-Low Vision Chart) were used for comparison. 19 athletes participated in these inquiries (74% male, 26% female; age: 21.7 ± 6.0 years).
RESULTS: Considering the classification data of 2035 athletes clinical pictures pattern like opticusatrophy, pigmentary retinopathy/macular degeneration, nystagmus and myopia were diagnosed most frequently. The starting classes B1 (blind athletes: 35.4%), B2 (visual impaired with less VA: 36.7%) and B3 (visual impaired with more VA: 27.3%) had almost the same quantity.
The first proving of the FrACT shows that there are high correlations to the results of the conventional measurements of VA. This indicates that the new methods already contribute to the optimization of the classifying process because of the minimized influence of the classifier and the standardized computer supported realization.
CONCLUSIONS: The stocktaking shows that the differences in VA between the extreme poles in starting class B2 are obviously bigger than in B3. This unequal distribution of VA-steps requires - at least due to reasons of fairness - a discussion about a new categorization of the starting classes.