There is no shortage of information about ultraviolet rays (UV) and how prolonged, unprotected exposure to UV can lead to skin damage. It’s why we wear sunscreen when we’re in the sun for extended periods of time. Sunscreens offer various degrees of UV protection by filtering out or “blocking” the harmful, invisible UVA and UVB wavelengths of light.
But did you know the same, serious approach to protecting your skin also applies to your eyes?
UV protection is critical to eye health
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Every sports activity requires a different skill set for success, yet all sports share a critical need for good vision. Geraint Griffiths, a British optometrist, devised a study to determine the effects of visual acuity on sports performance. This study distributed special vision-blurring goggles to Wimbledon tennis players and UK national clay pigeon shooters. Their performance was studied while the goggles were worn. Even though the goggles only blurred their vision a bit, the marksmen and tennis players showed a 25% decrease in accomplishment. This study demonstrated clearly that vision and sports achievement are inextricably linked.
Visual clarity isn’t the only benefit provided by sports eyewear. There are a number of additional eyewear features that boost athletic performance and enhance eye safety.
Protect Your Eyes from Impact-Related Injuries
As reported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, over 42,000 sports-related eye injuries occur in the United States each year. Approximately 43% of those injuries happen to children under the age of 15. The majority of these injuries can be prevented with protective eyewear, such as safety goggles with polycarbonate lenses.
Regular eyeglasses are designed for daily wear, and they aren’t resilient enough to handle the rough and tumble wear needed for sports. They also provide inadequate protection for your eyes. Contact lenses offer zero protection from sports-related eye injuries. In contrast, sports eyewear is constructed to be highly impact-resistant, thereby granting superior protection for your eyes and removing anxiety about potential eye injuries. Able to withstand the hit of a ball traveling at up to 90 miles per hour, polycarbonate lenses are about 10 times more impact-resistant than regular lenses.
Safety eyeglasses are advised for every activity that has the potential for injuries to the eye. Be aware that the following land sports run a higher risk to eyes: softball, baseball, hockey, football, basketball, handball, squash, racquetball, tennis, volleyball, soccer and lacrosse. In water, all swimming and pool sports require specialized eye gear. Paintball players should also make safety eyewear an essential part of their game.
A Barrier against UV Rays
Harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation can be just as damaging to your eyes as other injuries. A number of eye diseases, such as ocular tumors, macular degeneration, and cataracts, have been associated with exposure to UV rays. Photokeratitis, which refers to sunburn on your eye, is another hazard. This painful condition can cause long-term corneal damage.
Dangerous UV rays are more potent at higher altitudes and also bounce off snow or outdoor water, which increases exposure. It is imperative for skiers and anyone who enjoys outdoor water sports to wear sports sunglasses or tinted goggles that block 100% of the sun’s UV rays.
Some types of contact lenses provide UV protection, yet they only cover the central part of your eye. For this reason, sunglasses that block UV rays should still be worn, preferably in a wraparound style that also covers the delicate tissues surrounding your eyes. Hats with a wide brim will upgrade your protection by further reducing facial exposure to UV rays.
Enhance Your Game with Colored Lenses
Special tinted eyewear may add a winning edge to your game. Depending upon the lighting conditions, it’s not always simple to “keep your eye on the ball”. Hunters favor shooting glasses with amber tinted lenses, which highlight the contrast of birds flying against an overcast, dim sky. Golfers tend to gain the largest benefit from green tinted lenses.
A wide range of specialized tints for specific indoor and outdoor sports are available. These lenses can improve visibility and contrast in a diversity of environments. Ask your eye doctor or optician for more information about which lenses can help raise your scores.
Don’t Let Light Get in the Way
Reflective surfaces, such as a flat body of water, a sandy beach or even light-colored pavement, can disturb your vision with glare. Polarized sunglasses are one effective way to resolve this problem.
Another glare reducer is to add and anti-glare (AG) component to your lenses. At night, sports eyewear with anti-glare will diminish lens reflections when playing under bright lights or spotlights. It’s a good idea to apply anti-glare to the back surface of sport sunglasses in order to decrease the glare that bounces into your eyesight when sunlight hits the back of your lenses.
You can control the light that enters your eye by wearing photochromic lenses. These clear lenses transition automatically into dark lenses upon exposure to UV rays. They also offer 100% UV protection, and return quickly to their former clear state when you go indoors.
Contacts Provide Comfortable and Convenient Vision
Many advantages come along with wearing contact lenses for sports, even if you normally wear eyeglasses on a daily basis:
- Unobstructed peripheral vision
- Natural-appearing vision, with no changes in image sizes
- No fogging lenses
- Non-slip when perspiring
The best contact lens choice for sports is soft one-day disposables. There’s no need to clean them and you can toss them in the garbage at the end of the day. The flexible, oxygen-permeable material of one-day soft lenses also requires very little adaptation. They can be inserted easily and worn comfortably for a full day of physical activity.
Although contact lenses offer high convenience and comfort, there are still a number of disadvantages with wearing contacts for sports. No protection against eye injury is provided and they don’t offer sufficient UV protection. For ultimate performance and safety, you need to wear quality protective eyewear or sunglasses over your lenses.
Firearms can be dangerous, and all have some recoil. In addition most shooting occurs outside, where elements such as dust, wind, sun, trees and vegetation can potentially harm eyes. Therefore it’s very important to use eye protection at all times when engaged in shooting activities, indoors and outside.
Generally, sports goggles that you can buy without prescription usually protect your eyes if you wear contacts lens or don’t need glasses. These goggles usually wrap around your eyes to form a shield against the elements. Make sure to buy goggles with lenses made of polycarbonate, which is the best and strongest lens material available.
Features of Shooting Glasses
Glasses for shooters are specially designed and have several important features. These glasses have more features that the general aviator- shaped frames that are popular. The most important feature is that the frame has a safety rating. Don’t buy any shooting glasses that don’t have such a rating. All of these models have a strong rim which holds the lenses in place. Some glasses have a “sweat bar” that goes along the width of the frame which creates stability for the frame to stay on the face. Other models use padding on the frame around the eyes, which cushions the frame on your face. This protects your face from gun recoil. Additionally, it adds to the protection against the elements.
Glasses for shooting often have temples with spring hinges. This type of hinge allows the frame to move without breaking. Many glasses often include temples that wrap around your ear which helps keep the frame in the correct position on your face. Features that make the frames more comfortable often include soft silicon pads around the nose, which also help to keep the frame in place. Frames may be made out of several different types of materials, including various metals and titanium, plastic and polycarbonate.
Lenses for Shooting Glasses
Shooters have chosen polycarbonate lenses with UV protection and a scratch-resistant coating as their lens of choice for years. Polycarbonate lenses are extremely resistant to impact, and also give a lot of “bounce back” and “blow back” protection. However, there are newer materials for lenses that have been developed recently that are also excellent choices for shooters.
Non-prescription shooting glasses often come with interchangeable lenses. These lenses are used when facing varied conditions of light. If you need prescription lenses, you can order your lenses in various colors of your choice. Shooters often enjoy using orange or yellow colored lenses. These colors of lenses block blue light as well as haze. They also provide a more vivid hue of orange, which is often the color of the target. Bright yellow lenses are good for using in low light, or foggy weather conditions.
A light purple lens is particularly good for seeing an orange target when the background is green trees. Purple lenses are made from a mixture of vermillion and gray. Some shooters like vermilion, because this color helps see where there is a natural outdoor background, and helps the target to stand out. If you prefer a neutral or natural color, gray is the color of choice. A gray lens allows you to see all colors naturally, and are good for using in strong sunshine.
Polarized lenses are available in most colors. Polarized lenses are good for use in the outdoors, as they reduce glare. This is particularly helpful when shooting near water.
Nowadays, sports eyewear tells the world that you are a serious player. It doesn’t matter whether you bat in Little League or skate with the pros, eye gear for sports offers a long list of benefits.
Protective eyewear, such as specialized goggles and wraparound frames with polycarbonate lenses, helps to reduce or eliminate your risk of eye damage. An added bonus is that performance is often enhanced, due to the high quality vision provided from eyewear made for wearing on the playing field.
Eye gear for sports is not merely recommended, but now mandated by many clubs. Members are required to wear proper protective eyewear in order to participate in activities. Once upon a time, kids used to cringe at the concept of wearing goggles, but just like bike helmets have become the norm – sports goggles are now accepted as part of the uniform and regarded as ultra-cool.
Protect Your Eyes from Fast and Furious Sports Action
If you’re still unconvinced about your need to wear protective eyewear for sports, take a look at these scary statistics:
- Hospital emergency rooms treat 40,000 eye injuries annually, which are sports-related
- Tennis and badminton are played with objects that zoom at 60 mile per hour or faster. With racquetball, the ball can whizz by at 60 to 200 miles per hours.
- Activities such as racquetball involve racquets that swing at lightning speed in a confined space where crashes are inevitable.
- Many sports are filled with pokes and jabs from elbows or fingers. Even basketball is associated with a high incidence of injuries to the eye.
Up Your Performance with Sports Eyewear
Until recently, people with mild to moderate vision correction used to play their games without wearing eyeglasses or contacts. Yet top performance in any sport is dependent upon sharp vision. Eye gear and goggles for sports allow you to compete at your best, with 20/20 eyesight.
Key Features of Sports Glasses
Sports eyewear does not share the same characteristics as regular eyeglasses, sunglasses or industrial safety glasses. Crafted in a variety of shapes, sports eye gear is specialized to suit the specific needs of each respective sport. Many types of eyewear are even designed to fit into helmets worn when playing football, baseball or hockey.
Protective lenses are generally made from polycarbonate, a durable and impact-resistant material that boasts full UV protection for outdoor action. Polycarbonate lenses are also scratch-resistant, which is a valuable feature for many rough sports.
The frames are typically designed from highly-impact resistant plastic or polycarbonate, and they are coated with rubber padding at every point that connects with your face. Some frame styles are contoured to wrap around your face, which provides secure coverage for activities such as hang-gliding, sailing and biking. Non-prescription wraparound shapes are useful for contact lens wearers, as they block your eyes from dust or wind.
Classic handball goggles used to be fashioned as plain goggles with small openings instead of lenses. That style was abandoned once it was realized that the high speed of handballs actually compressed the balls enough to penetrate through the goggle opening and seriously damage the orbital bones around your eye. Modern and effective goggles for handball and racquetball include polycarbonate lenses that protect your eyes.
Importance of a Good Fit
There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to sports goggles. Proper sizing is critical for top-notch function. For kids, many parents may be tempted to purchase larger goggles so that they’ll be long-lasting with room to grow. Yet if the frames are truly oversized, they won’t protect the child’s eyes adequately. Impact or blows to the face or head won’t be cushioned properly.
On the flipside, wearing sports goggles that are too small is just as hazardous. Not only will the child be constantly tempted to take them off due to discomfort, but the eyewear will also disturb peripheral vision. Without a good view of all that’s happening around your child, sports performance will be compromised. Hits from unseen sources on the sidelines are another risk factor.
The fit of sports goggles should be reassessed each year. The eyewear should still feel comfortable and provide proper eye protection. The padding on the interior of the goggles must rest flush with your or your child’s face, and eyes should be centered in the lens zone.
Whether you are out on the field, the golf course, the waves or the mountains, you want your sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and enhance your visual experience. Sports and performance sunglasses are more than sun protection, they need to be designed for optimal, fit, comfort, acuity and strength, based on the demands of the sport or leisure activity you pursue.
Each element of your sports eyewear needs to be designed for active wear and to stand up to the tests of extreme weather conditions, rough play, impact and of course the sun. If you are fishing for example, you need anti-glare protection in your lenses for when the sun’s bright rays reflect off the water, you need a broad frame to keep out the mist and wind and you need strong frames and lenses for impact resistance. Most importantly, depending on your sport of choice, your glasses should assist in creating an enhanced visual experience so you can see and perform at your best.
Performance Sport Lenses
The first consideration when selecting your sports eyewear is the lens. You likely want a lightweight, strong and durable lens that can withstand impact from debris, other athletes, balls or falls. The leading lenses in this arena are polycarbonate or trivex lenses which are made from highly impact resistant plastic that has built-in UV protection.
Glare can be an annoying and uncomfortable distraction in outdoor activities, which can reduce vision and have a negative impact on sports performance. Polarized lenses will help to reduce the glare that is reflected off of wet, icy or shiny surfaces. Lens tints and coatings (such as anti-glare or anti-scratch coatings) can also help to improve visual clarity and can serve to reduce glare and to enhance contrast sensitivity to improve vision and therefore performance in certain outdoor activities. Some sports sunglasses come with interchangeable lenses of different tints to allow you to choose the contrast that most suits the conditions you are playing in.
When selecting sports sunglass frames, the most important consideration is whether they have a comfortable and secure fit. Look for a pair that is strong and durable, yet lightweight and that doesn’t press into your face and cause discomfort at the temples or the bridge of the nose. For some sports like snowboarding, sports goggles might be the best option for the weather conditions and specific nature of the movement. Some frame options come with grips on the nose pads or temples to avoid slippage, particularly when you perspire.
Sports sunglasses are available in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes and the type that is best for you largely depends on the activities you participate in and what they demand. It is best to consult with your eye doctor or optician to get a full picture of your eye, vision and athletic needs in order to find the best pair of sports sunglasses for you.