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The Best Eyewear for Sports: Protection and Performance Enhancement

Protective Eyewear for Sports Sports eyewear, specifically designed to protect and enhance the performance of the athlete, is one of the fastest growing segments in the eye care industry. Originally intended for use by professional athletes, this eye wear is now being sought out by many amateurs who want to shield their eyes while improving their game.

Even sports that seem harmless can still present some hazards. For instance, basketball is generally thought of as a non-contact sport, but has a very high rate of eye injuries from pokes and jabs from other players. Racquet sports involve no player-to-player contact at all, but the ball is typically traveling at 60 miles per hour or more! And in all outdoor sports, eyewear should be used to protect from UV rays, wind and debris.

Not only is sports eyewear a great choice for athletes, it's also mandatory in many leagues. If you play in any of your local recreation leagues, you may be required to wear protective glasses, goggles or a face mask.

Specific goggles or glasses for specific sports
It is critical that you correct eyewear is chosen. Different sports have different needs and different dangers, so the lenses and frames have to be different as well. There are specific frame types for each sport with some designed to be worn under the required helmet.

Proper fit for function
The frames must fit well or the protective eyewear will not be effective. If the frames are too large, they will likely slip out of place, leaving the eyes vulnerable and possibly obstructing vision. Frames that are too large also may affect peripheral vision, leading to hits from the side.

Parents often like to buy everything a little larger for children so that they can “grow into” them, but this attitude is not appropriate for protective glasses and goggles. Once your child has begun wearing their eyewear, make sure that you check the fit of the frames often. If they become too tight and uncomfortable when the child grows, he or she may end up not wearing them at all.

The best lenses
The best lenses for sports related eyewear is polycarbonate, because of its impact resistance. Make sure the lenses have a scratch-resistant coating, as they will likely take some abuse during play. If the eye wear will be worn outdoors, you should get 100% UV protection as well. Exposure to UV rays can lead to an increased risk of developing cataracts and other eye diseases.

Comfort and special features
For comfort, the safety glasses or goggles should have padding, especially where the frame comes in contact with the face. If there is a strap, it should be easy to adjust and allow for a perfect fit every time that the glasses are worn. Some types of protective eye wear are contoured and wrap around the face - perfect for sports including biking, hang gliding or sailing because they protect the eye not only from the sun but from wind and dust as well.

How serious are sports related injuries?
Prevent Blindness America released the following figure: 40,000 eye injuries per year are sports related.

Additional figures from the American Journal of Ophthalmology related to handball and paintball eye injuries: Of nearly 40 patients treated at an emergency room for eye injuries related to these sports:

  • 28% suffered a ruptured eyeball
  • 19% had a detached retina
  • 22% suffered total removal of the eye
  • 81% needed some type of eye surgery
  • 36% of these patients recovered vision of 20/40 or better

Discussing your needs with the eye care professional
Next time you see your eye doctor, be sure to mention the sport that you or your child is involved in. He or she will help you to select the right frame, lens and fit for your protective eyewear whether you need corrective lenses or not.

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