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Protecting your eyes while playing sport

Posted on 24 January 2014

Eye injuries occur frequently in sports, and in 90 per cent of cases, the injury could have been prevented if the person involved had been wearing adequate eye protection. Eye injuries happen more often in sports involving physical contact and those that use a ball of some kind. The most high-risk sports for eye injuries are boxing, martial arts, cricket, squash, tennis, hockey, football and basketball.


Common eye injuries that occur when playing sport include:
  • Blunt trauma this is the most common form of sporting eye injury and involves the eye being struck by a blunt object such as a bat, ball or elbow. If it is a particularly hard knock, it can result in rupturing of the eyeball or even a detached retina.
  • Penetration this is where something cuts into the eye. This kind of injury is less common than blunt trauma, but it can cause major damage to the eye if it occurs.
  • Radiation this is exposure to the suns UV rays, which can be harmful to your eyes. Those who play outdoor sports are obviously more at risk, particularly those involved in snow and water sports, where the effect of the suns rays is magnified.

So how do you protect your eyes when playing sport? There are several ways you can reduce the risk of eye injuries and these include:

Contact lenses

While wearing soft contact lenses instead of glasses will not fully protect your eyes, it will remove the risk of your glasses being broken and glass entering your eyes. Contact lensesalso provide the peripheral vision you need when playing team sports, which is somewhat restricted when wearing glasses.

Masks

Some high-risk sports employ face guards, helmets or masks to protect players from injury. These sports include ice hockey, American football, cricket and fencing. While such devices will help to protect your face and head, they do not really offer adequate protection for the eyes, which are still vulnerable to blunt trauma or penetration injuries.

Protective eyewear

Sports eyewear is now available that is specifically designed to protect the eyes from injury. With lenses made from polycarbonate, which is 10 times more impact-resistant than other plastics, this eyewear offers the best protection available against eye injuries. The lenses will not shatter like glass and cut the eyes, and their wrap-around style also provides greater protection from harmful UV rays.

Some styles of protective eyewear even have an anti-fogging coating applied to them, and side vents for added ventilation. Protective eyewear includes goggles (which are often worn by professional basketballers), safety glasses, eye guards and safety shields, with different specifications applying to different sports.

While a broken bone or a pulled muscle will eventually heal itself, damage to the eyes can lead to permanent impairment and even blindness. That's why protective eyewear should be worn by every person involved in playing high-risk sports, whether they have visions problems or not.

Protective eyewear can be purchased from most sports stores, or, if you require prescription lenses, from your optometrist or eyecare professional.