Kelsey Adkins has been raised in a gymnasium, and it shows. But after all, when you’re the 10-year-old daughter of a basketball coach, the chances of developing an interest in the sport are pretty good.

Kelsey Adkins, right, works with UAB optometrist Kristine Hopkins during a recent vision therapy session at UAB Eye Care. Adkins has undergone two eye surgeries and years of vision therapy with great success.

“When she learned to crawl, she crawled to a basketball, and when she learned to walk, she walked to get to a basketball,” says her mother Candece. “Her first word was ball. With Michael [Kelsey’s dad] being a basketball coach, it’s kind of been her thing from the beginning.”

Vision complications threatened to take basketball away from the Cullman native not long after she began to walk. One of her eyes began to turn inward at the age 3; if left untreated, that can lead to a loss of vision in the eye.

Kelsey began therapy sessions with optometrist Kristine Hopkins, O.D., at UAB Eye Care before she turned 5. Later, she underwent two surgeries to correct esotropia and more therapy.

Today Kelsey is a success story. Proof of that is the news that she recently finished eighth in the nation in her age group at the Elks Hoop Shoot basketball free-throw competition in Springfield, Mass.

“Before my eye got better the goal looked different,” Kelsey says. “Sometimes it looked blurry, and sometimes it didn’t. Now I can see clear with bifocals and even without them when I look at far away objects.”

The Adkins’ credit Hopkins and the team at UAB Eye Care for the role they have played in giving Kelsey her eyesight.

“Dr. Hopkins taught Kelsey how to use those muscles and how to coordinate with her brain to use her eyes together through the therapy,” Adkins says. “She wears prescription bifocals to help those muscles relax and keep her eyes straight when she’s looking at something close, like reading or school work.

“I feel like if we had not gotten with Dr. Hopkins and not learned the exercises she would have lost vision in that eye.”

Therapy aided recovery
An inward eye turn was detrimentally affecting Kelsey’s depth perception. Hopkins’ goal from the very beginning was to try to train Kelsey’s eyes to work together, but her inward eye turn was so severe that surgery was needed.

Her eye drifted too far the other direction after the first surgery, requiring a second procedure. Hopkins and Kelsey continued the therapy sessions throughout the process.

“It’s hard when you have an eye turn and have to have surgery because often the brain will learn to just use one eye,” Hopkins says. “By doing therapy we kept reinforcing using both eyes together at the same time.”

Adkins was impressed with Hopkins and the different therapies she was able to incorporate. She said Kelsey never lost interest in doing the therapy work and actually looked forward to it.

“They always came up with something new and inventive so it would be fun for her,” Adkins says. “I remember her wearing these glasses and having to trace letters and pictures. That was at the age when she was really learning to write, draw and color, so it was fun for her and challenging.”

It also has enabled her to get on the basketball court and compete.

Her individual honors include:
• Winning her elementary school free-throw shooting competition
• Winning the county competition against champions from 14 other schools
• Winning the North Alabama district competition
• Winning the state competition at Birmingham-Southern, where she hit 21-of-25 free throws and claimed the Outstanding Shooter Award for all age groups
• Winning the regional championship in Valdosta, Ga.
• Finishing eighth at the national competition in Springfield, Mass., making 18-of-25 free throws

“I didn’t make it as far last year,” she says. “I’m proud of making it to nationals, and I’m proud of my team because we went undefeated this year.”

Hopkins says Kelsey’s long-term outlook is extremely positive.

“She’s had a great outcome,” Hopkins says. “I don’t expect she’s going to have a regression. Usually when we do the therapy the findings hold really well.

“As much as I love to see Kelsey, I don’t think I’ll see her more than once a year for her checkups.”

That scenario is OK with Kelsey, too. She has big goals for herself this upcoming school year. She wants to help her team complete another undefeated season and she also wants to get back to the national free-throw tournament. Only this time, she has her goal set much higher than eighth place. She wants to win it.

“That,” she says, “would be a good year.”

UAB Eye Care is located on University Boulevard between South 17th and 18th streets. To schedule an appointment between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, call 975-2020. Visit today for information about the clinics.