A few decades ago, it was rare to see any eye protection or eyewear when watching professional sports. Today, we know that specialized lenses, goggles, and glasses are required when playing sports to protect the eye and avoid injury. This protection is especially important for children playing sports.
Sports eyewear can have a positive effect on athletic performance. A study completed in 2003 on tennis players and target shooters demonstrated that those with vision even slightly blurry had a 25% worse performance than those with clear vision. In terms of protection, studies show that 90% of eye injuries from sports can be prevented by the correct sports eyewear. Whether contact lenses, glasses, sunglasses, or goggles, eye protection is necessary while playing sports.
Common Eye Injuries from Sports
The most common eye injuries from sports are corneal abrasions, like scrapes or cuts, injuries from a blunt object, like a bat or puck, or penetrating injuries from plastic of a wood splinter. These injuries can be mild and easily treated, like a black eye, or much more serious like broken eyeballs, broken bones around the eye, or a detached retina. There are also radiation injuries from too much exposure to UV light while playing sports.
Many of the most popular sports in Canada are classified as High Risk by the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind). Baseball, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, paintball, and squash and other racquet sports, cause most eye injuries and can often lead to severe injuries or even blindness.
These types of injuries can all be avoided, prevented, or minimized by using properly-fitting eyewear and eye protection while playing these sports.
Contact Lenses: Simple protective eyewear
For many athletes requiring vision correction, contact lenses are a sound choice. They offer many benefits for athletes:
- a wider field of view than glasses
- better peripheral vision
- less likelihood of getting dirty (from mud or water)
- more stable vision
- less chance of injury from broken eyeglasses
- better compatibility with sports or safety equipment
However, most sports still require additional eyewear for complete protection. If it’s an outdoor sport, you need to wear goggles or glasses with UV protection to protect the entire eye area from damaging light. Protective equipment is also necessary to prevent injuries in both contact and non-contact sports alike. While contact lenses are a good option for vision correction, they are not usually enough for complete eye protection for sports.
Glasses: Prescription sports glasses, prescription goggles, and eye protection for sports
When playing sports, it’s important never to wear your regular eye glasses, even if you’re wearing further protection over them. Eye glasses are not built to handle rough activity and could shatter on impact with another person, the ground, or sports equipment. Shattered eye glasses can cause severe eye damage and injuries. Prescription sports glasses are more robust and handle more contact and impact.
Protection from UV light is key for outdoor sports. Sports sunglasses can aid your vision so you can see more clearly, as well as protect your eye from developing cataracts and macular degeneration. A common side effect of playing sports outside without any UV protective eyewear is photokeratitis – basically a sunburn on the eye. This can damage the cornea and lead to both temporary and permanent vision loss. This can occur in the winter as well; photokeratitis is also known as ‘snow blindness’. Wearing goggles when skiing or snowboarding, for example, is necessary to prevent this condition.
Eyewear for sports should be made of polycarbonate lenses. These lenses are impact-resistant and built to withstand a variety of rough contact in sports. This material also has built-in UV protection so you don’t have to worry about the risks of photokeratitis and damage to your eye. Polycarbonate lenses are absolutely necessary in almost every sport to ensure eye safety in preventing injuries and promote eye health.
Sports Glasses for Kids
Children are especially vulnerable to eye injuries while playing sports. Approximately 40% of eye injuries from sports occur in children younger than 15. Whether your child requires vision correction or not, it’s essential that they wear polycarbonate lenses or other protective eyewear required by their sport.
Photokeratitis can cause damage in children that lasts until adulthood. Fifty percent of our lifetime UV exposure occurs before we are 18 years old. By using UV protective eyewear while playing sports, we can reduce this percentage greatly in children and help promote good eye health into adulthood.
Whether you’re a professional athlete or just the occasional jogger, protective eyewear for sports is imperative for maintaining good eye health and preventing a variety of eye conditions. Dr. Jeff Sciberras can consult with you about the best eyewear for your sports and activities. With proper sports eyewear, you’ll have no more excuses as to why you missed that last shot!