NFL Coach Zimmer Gets Retinal Detachment | What Can We Learn?

Retinal Detachment | Jireh Designs

NFL Coach Zimmer Gets Retinal Detachment | What Can We Learn?

Retinal Detachment | Jireh DesignsNFL coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Zimmer, just had a retinal detachment to his right eye.

He has had several “surgeries” over the past 30 days to the same eye.  While the exact details are not known, there is a lot we can learn from his recent experience.

What we do know is;

  1.  A retinal tear was discovered and treated around October 31.
  2. A second operation was performed a week later.
  3.  Emergency surgery for a retinal detachment was performed on November 30.

Retinal Tears Cause Retinal Detachment

All retinal detachments start with a retinal tear.  It has been my experience that most retinal tears simply “happen” and without trauma.

Retinal tears can happen to anyone.  Retinal tears usually, but not always, are associated with sudden onset flashes and floaters, but they can be asymptomatic.

This may have happened with Coach Zimmer.  Several accounts stated that his retinal tear was discovered after he scratched his cornea.

No, corneal abrasions can not cause retinal tears.

Treatment of Retinal Tears

The ideal treatment of a retinal tear is laser.  If laser is not an option, due to the location of the retinal tear, cryotherapy, or freezing, is an excellent treatment.

Both work equally well in treating retinal tears in situations where there is no element of retinal detachment.  Cryotherapy may be more uncomfortable.

I do not know if the second surgery was needed because additional tears were discovered or he developed a retinal detachment.

What is important to highlight is that additional retinal tears can occur and/or a retinal detachment could develop after treatment of an initial tear.

Treatment of Retinal Detachments

There are several ways to treat a retinal detachment.  Depending upon the location of the retinal tear causing the detachment, intraocular gas may be injected into the eye which requires specific head positioning afterwards to keep the gas pushing on the retinal tear.  This is an “in office” procedure.

Two other ways to fix a retinal detachment include a vitrectomy and/or scleral buckle.  These may be used along with intraocular gas, too.

Regardless of the procedure, if intraocular gas is used to repair the retinal detachment, airplane flight or traveling to higher elevations is not possible.

Too rapid a decrease in atmospheric pressure can lead to expansion of the gas inside the eye.  If this occurs too rapidly, the eye can not adjust to the increase in eye pressure caused by the expanding gas.  The high pressure could prevent normal blood flow into the eye.

This explains a few remarks about his driving to Florida for the game against the Jaguars.  No remarks about head positioning.

“Emergency Surgery”

Not all retinal detachment surgery is an emergency.  A retinal detachment starts off small and can spread.  If the macula, the functional center of the retina is attached, but may become detached by waiting, it can be an emergency.

I wish Coach Zimmer well.  I wanted to highlight his retinal detachment to emphasize a few points about retinal detachments in keeping with the headlines.




  • Patryk Krawczyk
    Posted at 22:20h, 18 September Reply

    Can someone help…
    Because I am a patient with Rhegmatogenous from 2011. I past 4 surgeries( 3 with gas and last one with silicon oil). After 5 years my eye cause problems of infection because of dry eye and no reaction for light… I have calcium In my eye and bloody eye. I need lookout for job environment and I’m on point where all my life is like a one big question mark. I can’t support my wife because I change career path. I can’t see from right side. I spot some shadow from really close distance. My reaction is delayed using just left eye. People or kids walk on me or I walk on them. As I don’t see on right eye my left eye have -13! I don’t know and no one give me instructions what I can do or not. I was last week on clinic and they ask me what they can do for me… I think as patient Is wrong way question! That was a joke? What I can know?

    As husband and father I want the best for my family. I want see them, I want watch any moment of their life. I want prepare and manage my life and give them all I have before things go wrong and I stay in shadow till the end.

    During that time calcium was building up in front of my cornea. After consultation with optician I decided to remove that calcium in hope that redness and itchy will go away and from that point I will be have easy life. But things go wrong and after 3 days special lens was detach from front of cornea making a tiny hole. From that hole kind of liquid was start leaking and I was go to hospital. My eye was in pain and become more flat. Pressure was go down to 2 but after one week was back to normal 11-13. My eye is look like flat, collapsed. I’m patient in Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham,UK They give to me 2 options put some lens or remove eye totally. I have appointment in QMC on November. I disagree with second options because I believe one day someone will find some resolution for detach retina. I have silicone oil in my eye but is become flat when they remove calcium.

    And my cornea lost shape and become smaller (I attach some picture)

    Please past my information to experts and any advice from them will be welcome

    Ps. My left eye have -13 and is at risk of retina detach probably to.

    Kind regards

    Patryk Krawczyk

    • Randall Wong, M.D.
      Posted at 11:20h, 23 September Reply


      I am sorry to learn of your misfortune. You have a very complicated case and I can only refer you to your own doctors as I am unable to examine you and give you an opinion. I would encourage you to listen to your doctors and find someone who can explain to you what has occurred and what to expect. All the best. Randy

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