Your vision is essential to your sporting performance, so why risk damaging your eyesight? Protective sports eyewear is worn by professionals and novices alike and is essential part of any kit.
Protective eyewear is usually worn for three reasons: to protect your eyes against balls, other players and the sun. Glasses or goggles create a physical barrier around your eyes to protect against rogue balls in sports like squash and tennis, or to protect against the poking elbows and fingers in team games.
However, in many ways the sun is one of the hidden dangers in sport. All you can see is lovely, bright sunshine but the sun’s harmful UV rays, can damage your eyesight, if your eyes are unprotected.
It’s not just about peace of mind, you’ll also benefit in terms of your performance. Wearing sunglasses will increase your visibility. On a sunny day, you don’t want to be squinting every time the ball flies across the court towards you. Not only is the sun distracting, like constant bright itch, but after several hours in the strong sun, you’re likely to get a headache.
A startling 40,000 people suffer from sports related eye injuries every year in the US. As a result, many sports clubs have recognised the dangers of unprotected eyes and made eyewear compulsory.
Which sports put my eyes at risk?
In any sport where hitting, kicking or throwing balls is involved, your eyes are in danger. It is very easy to be accidentally hit in the eye by a rogue ball and the consequences can be severe. In sports like squash, the ball can travel at 60mp/h, making eyewear essential.
Team Games/ Contact Sports
Any sport which involves the possibility of being in close proximity to other players, poses a risk to your eyes. A struggle for the ball in basketball, or a tackle in rugby, can result in an accidental jab in the eye by the opposing team’s elbows. Even swimming can pose a threat to your eyes if you swim near other people.
Playing sport in the fresh air and sunshine can be a great feeling but any outdoor sport puts your eyes at risk from UV rays. Whether you like big waves, state of the art golf courses or mountainous cycle paths, you’ll need UV protective eyewear.
Why Do I need Protective Eyewear?
Just like you wouldn’t think twice about wearing a bike helmet or putting on sun cream, eyewear needs to be prioritised in a similar way.
For example, every time you protect your skin from the sun, think about your eyes. Unlike sunburn, the effects of UV rays on your eyes can easily go unnoticed. With skin, if your back is pink like sizzling lobster, you know that you’ve had enough sunshine. However, the effects of UV rays on your eyes will build up gradually, damaging the eye’s surface tissue, cornea and lens.
How Can I choose Protective Eyewear That’s Right for Me?
Most sports have specific eyewear, designed to enhance your performance and protect against any hazard that sport might create. To find out what eyewear you will need for your chosen sport, take a look at this eyewear guide.
However, if you just need protection from UV rays, then here are a few tips to help you choose good quality sports sunglasses.
- Make sure the glasses protect against UVA and UVB.
- Choose sunglasses made from polycarbonate because this is a shock resistant material, offering your eyes high quality protection from impact-based injuries.
- If you are cycling, surfing or playing golf or any other sport where you will be outdoors for a long period of time, choose wrap around sunglasses. This style of glasses wraps around your eyes offering you complete protection from UV Rays. Whereas in the standard sunglasses design, you’re likely to get a bright light in the corner of your eye, which the dark lens can’t quite reach. These completely cover your eyes- like a protective bubble.
- Choose sunglasses that block 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays.
- Ensure that the eyewear screens out 75-90% of visible light.
- And finally, the lenses should be grey as this allows proper colour recognition, which is important for nearly all sports.
Do you have any tips for protecting your eyes during sport? What kind of protective eyewear works for you?
Bio: Gavin Harvey is a health and fitness blogger with sport on the brain. When he’s not cycling, playing tennis or surfing the Cornish coastline, he loves to write for Valley Optics.