Sports Protection

According to The National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute, a staggering 42,000 sports-related eye injuries in the United States each year require a trip to the emergency room — that is the equivalent of one serious eye injury every 13 minutes! The good news? Almost 90% of eye injuries are preventable with the proper eye protection.

Athletes and their families with a history of eye disorders or diseases are at a heightened risk for serious injury. Athletes whose best corrected acuity is less than 20/40 in one eye (referred to as one-eyed athletes) should always wear sports eye protectors to decrease the risk of eye damage during games and practices.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends protective eyewear (safety glasses or goggles) for all sports, regardless of whether or not you wear glasses or contacts. Studies show that protective eyewear does not hinder a player’s sight. Proper eyewear can actually aid performance because players using protective eyewear do not worry about sustaining an eye injury and can instead devote their full attention and effort to their performance.

Preventing Sports-Related Eye Injuries

The best way to prevent a sports-related eye injury is to wear sport-specific protective eyewear that fits properly. Glasses or contacts do not provide the eye protection needed during sports or other activities. Here are some helpful tips to consider when purchasing protective eyewear:

  • All protective eyewear should meet American Standards for Testing and Materials' (ASTM) impact standards.
  • Lenses should be made from polycarbonate materials. These lenses provide the highest level of protection and can withstand the impact from a ball or other projectile traveling at up to 90 miles per hour.
  • Everyday fashion or corrective eyewear does not offer the same protection as protective eyewear labeled for sport use. For example, on impact, the lenses in regular eyeglasses can easily pop out and puncture or cut the eye. Similarly, a frame damaged by impact could also cause injury.
  • Protective eyewear can be purchased at sporting goods stores as well as at eye care providers' offices.

When you wear the proper protection while engaging in sporting activities, thousands of eye injuries can be prevented each year. And it’s not just football, hockey, lacrosse, or baseball that demand protection – almost any sport you can imagine can cause eye injuries. For example, the high speed of handballs compresses the ball enough to protrude through the opening of the eyewear and cause serious eye damage. All goggles worn for handball and racquetball should include impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses for adequate protection during these sports.