Sports Eye Safety: Everything You Need to Know

Focus and precision can make all the difference between victory and defeat in sports. Yet, eye safety is often overlooked amidst the competition. Every athlete faces potential eye-related risks. Whether you’re a student-athlete or intramural weekend warrior, you need to protect your vision to stay in the game.

Sports eye safety is crucial due to the high risk of eye injuries. Polycarbonate lenses provide clarity and protection. Contact lenses enhance vision in contact sports but they should be paired with suitable eye protection. Sports-specific protective gear like face masks, goggles, and helmets are essential for different activities. Sports with a higher risk of eye injuries include basketball, hockey, and lacrosse.

Why is sports eye safety important?

Young woman putting in a contact lens.

Sports eye safety is of extreme importance due to the higher risk of eye injuries during athletic activities. Without proper protection, athletes are vulnerable to serious eye injuries caused by flying objects and debris or collisions with other players.

In the United States alone, nearly 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are reported annually. These incidents often result in visits to emergency rooms, highlighting the prevalence and severity of such accidents. 

Not only can eye injuries be painful and potentially vision-threatening, but they can also lead to long-term consequences. This includes vision impairment or even blindness. Therefore, making protective eyewear a standard practice while playing sports is crucial. 

It serves as a primary defense against unforeseen accidents. Prioritizing sports eye safety ensures that you can enjoy your favorite activities while minimizing the risk of eye-related mishaps.

What are the best lenses for sports?

The best lenses for sports prioritize both performance and eye protection. Unlike regular eyeglasses, protective eyewear for sports is designed to withstand impact and shield eyes from potential harm. This significantly reduces the risk of eye injury. For added protection, consider lenses that are impact-resistant and shatterproof. 

Polycarbonate lenses are an excellent choice since they offer superior durability without compromising clarity. They also have the advantage of being lightweight, making them comfortable to wear during physical activities.

Opting for sports lenses with proper coverage and secure fit is good practice for athletes seeking both visual clarity and eye safety. These lenses are crafted to wrap around the face, providing comprehensive coverage and minimizing the risk of stray objects entering the eye area.

Can I wear contact lenses while playing contact sports?

Yes, you can wear contact lenses while playing contact sports like field hockey. It’s crucial to prioritize good vision during such high-risk activities. While contact lenses enhance vision during sports, they don’t provide adequate protection against impact or foreign objects. That’s why it’s strongly recommended to pair them with suitable eye protection. 

At Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical, we recommend daily contact lenses to the majority of our clients. They are perfect options for athletes looking to ensure clear vision during a game. These disposable lenses are designed to be thrown away every night and replaced with a fresh pair every morning. This means that there is no cleaning required for these lenses. They are also better for dealing with allergies and lowering your risk of an eye infection.

What types of protective gear are available for sports eye safety?

Protective gear for sports eye safety encompasses a range of options tailored to specific activities. Wearing protective eyewear is crucial for shielding the eyes from impacts and preventing injuries.

Young female swimmer putting on swimming goggles.

Face masks are commonly used in sports like: 

  • Baseball 
  • Softball 
  • Ice hockey 

They offer additional protection for the entire face, including the eyes. These special masks act as a barrier against fast-moving balls or pucks, reducing the risk of direct hits.

Other forms of protective eyewear include: 

  • Sports goggles
  • Helmets
  • Swim goggles
  • Face shields

Sports goggles are specially designed glasses or goggles with impact-resistant lenses. They provide a barrier against fast-moving objects, such as balls or pucks, and are essential in sports like basketball, racquetball, and field hockey. Helmets usually have face shields or cages to protect the entire face, including the eyes.

In water sports like swimming, water polo, and diving, swim goggles help protect the eyes from chlorine, saltwater, and potential impacts in the pool. Face shields are used in combat sports like boxing, MMA, and fencing. Like helmets, these masks provide comprehensive protection for the entire face as well as the eyes.

Wearing protective eyewear is imperative in preventing eye injuries. It serves as a vital defense against sports-related eye trauma. This type of protective eyewear is crafted with durable materials and shatterproof lenses, ensuring they can withstand the rigors of athletic activities.

Which sports have a higher risk of eye injuries?

The leading cause of sports eye trauma includes blunt eye trauma, penetrating eye injuries, and corneal abrasion. These injuries can occur in a number of sports, including:

  • Basketball
  • Baseball/softball
  • Hockey
  • Lacrosse

Basketball injuries can occur due to contact with elbows or fingers, particularly when going for a rebound or attempting a block. In baseball and softball, fast-moving balls and bats pose a risk. This is especially true for the batter, catcher, and infielders. The pucks and sticks used in hockey along with the speed of play, make eye injuries a significant concern. For lacrosse, The high-speed ball and close checking can lead to eye injuries, especially for offensive players.

Do you need the right gear to protect your vision when playing sports? Contact us today to schedule your appointment!


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Ensuring eye safety when playing sports is essential. Polycarbonate lenses offer sharp vision and effective shielding. Contacts can improve vision in sports but they must be combined with appropriate eye safeguards. Specialty equipment such as face masks, goggles, and helmets should be worn. Basketball, hockey, and racquet sports carry a heightened risk of eye injuries.

Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has been serving Knoxville since 2009. Located at 10904 Spring Bluff Way, you can schedule an appointment online or give us a call at (865) 888-0892.

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Thompson was born and raised in Knoxville, TN. His family has lived in the Hardin Valley area since 1998, and he graduated from Karns High School in 2004. Dr. Thompson runs Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical alongside his wife, Dr. Catherine Abbott.

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"Dr. Thompson is super professional, and has some of the best 'bedside manner' that I have ever witnessed from any doctor. His staff was very helpful in assisting me with picking out regular frames and sunglasses. I’d happily recommend Dr. Thompson to anyone looking for a eye doctor."
Cody C.