Proper Eyewear and Healthy Vision Crucial for Athletes’ Performance

By Tara Weghorst

As athletes gear up for a game, a vital component must be on their checklists — eye protection. Although extremely important, eyewear isn’t always a priority for some. According to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2014 American Eye-Q consumer survey, only 21 percent of those surveyed wear protective eyewear when playing contact sports. Athletes also need to be sure their eye health and vision are at their best—after all, a player’s vision could be the difference between their team’s win or loss.

What sports are considered high-risk for eye injury?

Sports considered by the National Eye Institute to be high-risk for eye injuries include baseball, softball, basketball, hockey, and racquetball. Basketball, in particular, has been ranked as a leading cause of eye injuries among 15- to 24-year-olds.

Tips to prevent serious eye injury

To prevent injury, athletes are advised to wear eye protection that may include safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards designed for a particular sport and that meet standards from ASTM International, a global standards organization. These types of protection are designed to be impact resistant without clouding an athlete’s vision. Your local Optometrist can advise a patient athlete, coach, or parent on the best protection for that athlete and his or her needs.

UV protection is also important to consider, as exposure to UV radiation without proper protection can lead to serious problems.

“Short-term exposure to UV rays could lead to photokeratitis, also known as ‘sunburn of the eye,’” said Dr. Sean Claflin. “Symptoms of photokeratitis include red eyes, a foreign-body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Long-term exposure to UV can cause damage to the eye, possibly resulting in cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, or other visual impairments.”

For optimal eye sun-safety, the AOA recommends wearing sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays. Click here to learn more about UV protection.

By visiting your local Optometrist regularly for comprehensive eye care, athletes can perform their best on the court or field with clear and healthy vision, as well as be sure their eyes are protected and, hopefully, bring home a win.

To make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam, visit visioncare.org to search for an Optometrist in your zip code.

Tara Weghorst is Communications & Events Manager for the Colorado Optometric Association. The Colorado Optometric Association (COA) is the professional organization of optometrists in Colorado. Over 600 Colorado Doctors of Optometry are voluntary members of the Association.

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