How to Best Protect Your Eyes While Playing Sports

September 02, 2021

Sports-related eye injuries are commonly treated in hospitals around the country every year. The eye is a sensitive organ, susceptible to damage from many different sources of danger, including high-energy sports. Unfortunately, a common misconception exists that everyday eyeglasses will protect athletes from eye injury. The truth is, sometimes wearing prescription eyeglasses can actually increase risk of injury. Here’s how playing sports can affect your eyes, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Sports That Can Harm Your Eyes

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, basketball is one of the leading causes of sports-related eye injury in the United States, followed by baseball, softball, airsoft rifles, pellet guns, racquetball, and hockey. This is because in sports like these, it’s easy for a flying object to hit a participant in the face, potentially harming the eyes in the process. The sports listed above also often don’t normally require players to wear protective gear on their heads or faces, which can increase the risk of eye damage. Football players wear helmets and masks to prevent facial and head injuries, swimmers wear goggles to protect their eyes from chemicals, and snowsports players wear goggles to protect their eyes from the brightness of snow and sun. But if you’re playing a sport involving an object moving at great speed and with great force, you risk putting your face and eyes in danger.

Eye injuries are also a casualty of combat sports. Boxing and other full-contact martial arts present serious dangers to eye health because, again, participants often don’t wear protective face gear, and the likelihood of being hit in the face is quite high Given the intensity of these activities, it can also be easy to “shrug off” eye injuries or not do anything about them until it’s too late.

Wear Appropriate Protection

Prescription lenses may provide a thin layer of protection over your eyes, but they’re also likely to shatter and cause even greater damage if something hits and breaks them. That’s why it’s important to know what kinds of eye protection, helmets, and face shields are available to you when you play potentially eye-dangerous sports. It’s especially important to make sure children wear appropriate sporting protection, since a sports eye injury could affect their ability to learn in the present and could affect their sight for years to come.

  • Protective sport glasses are often made out of shatter-proof plastic, or polycarbonate, which will provide your eyes with more protection than your average pair of prescription glasses. These glasses can be used in sports of all kinds, including basketball, baseball, soccer, combat sports and ranged or shooting sports. They can also be turned into polarized sunglasses to protect players who are routinely exposed to high levels of sunlight while practicing and playing.
  • Face shields and helmets are available in many sports, like lacrosse and hockey, and they can protect your eyes and the rest of your face and head from flying projectiles.
  • Protective goggles are common in swimming, but they may also be available in other water sports. These goggles can protect the eyes from harmful chemicals in swimming pools while also making it easier for athletes to see underwater.
  • Contact lenses can be another great solution for eye protection because they allow players to see clearly and wear inexpensive protective eye gear at the same time. However, it’s important to note that if you wear contact lenses but no protective eyewear, contacts can add injury to your eyes just as much as glasses if a moving object hits them.
  • LASIK may be an option. While LASIK is not something doctors can perform on adolescents, it’s a great option for collegiate or professional athletes, and even adults who participate in recreational sports. Just like with contacts, additional protective gear may be required, but LASIK does eliminate the need for protective lenses.

All protective sport headgear and eyewear should be vetted and approved by authorities in that sport. Otherwise, you risk greater injury by wearing face protection that won’t hold up to a severe blow to the face. It’s especially important to wear protective eyewear during sports if you have already had previous eye injuries, as repeated eye damage can lead to early-onset blindness and other conditions.

Piedmont Eye Center Is Here to Help!

We at Piedmont Eye Center urge athletes to wear protective face and eye protection while playing sports. It may not seem necessary all the time, but you’ll thank yourself when the laws of physics get the better of you just one time—because it may only take one eye injury to keep you from playing the sport you love.

If you experience an eye emergency, please visit an emergency room. However, if your eye problem is not an emergency but still needs attention, we can set up an appointment for you with one of our eye doctors. We can also offer you suggestions on what kind of protective eyewear is best for you. Contact us today!

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