Eyewear That Enhances Performance
Great vision is obligatory to ensure good performance in nearly every sport. British optometrist Geraint Griffiths and others in 2003 tested the performance of Wimbledon tennis players and UK national clay pigeon shooting champions as their vision was blurred with the usage of special goggles. This test was designed with the sole purpose of determining how visual acuity affects sports performance. Overall, the findings showed that the tennis players and marksmen experienced a 25% decrease in their performance when the sharpness of vision was only slightly blurred by the goggles.
Besides providing sharp vision, sports eyewear offers additional benefits to help all athletes and sports enthusiasts of all ages perform at their highest possible physical level:
Protection from Impact-Related Injuries
Optimal sports performance is hindered when an athlete is busy worrying about an injury or the risk of injury. Sports eyewear boasts the primary advantages of superior impact-resistance and eye protection over that of regular eyewear.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has found that upwards of 40,000 sports-related eye injuries occur yearly in the United States, and approximately 1/3rd of those who are affected are children.
Many experts concur that many, if not most of these injuries can be prevented with the usage of protective eyewear. One such example of protective eyewear is safety goggles with polycarbonate lenses. Polycarbonate lenses possesses up to 10 times more impact-resistance than do regular eyeglass lenses and can withstand impacts that result from a ball or other projectile traveling at speeds upwards of 90 mph.
Contact lenses on their own lack the ability to provide an adequate measure of protection from sports-related eye injuries. Regular optical wear intended for everyday wear lack sufficient strength and the proper design to offer ample eye protection during sports.
While you should consider wearing sports eyewear for every activity that carries a risk for eye injury, its usage is vital for the following sports: baseball, basketball, soccer, football, tennis, volleyball, softball, hockey, handball, racquetball, squash, field hockey, lacrosse, swimming and pool sports, and fishing. Paintball “war games” are another activity for which safety eyewear is quintessential.
UV Radiation Protection
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is one of the primary dangers that one may experience when partaking in outdoor sports, even during the winter. Extreme exposure to UV rays has been linked to the causation of eye diseases such as cataracts and ocular tumors. This exposure may also result in a “sunburn” of sorts on your eye (s) (AKA photokeratitis), which is very agonizing and can cause longstanding damage to the cornea (the clear, front surface of the eye).
Skiers are advised to always wear tinted goggles or sports sunglasses that block all of the sun’s UV rays. This is especially important for skiers because the strength of UV radiation is augmented at higher altitudes. Additionally, UV rays also bounce off of snow (even on cloudy days) to increase one’s exposure to them. Anyone who participates in outdoor water sports also must utilize UV protection. UV rays can reflect off the clear surfaces of bodies of water.
There are some contact lenses that offer UV protection. The downside is that contacts cover only the centers of your eyes and are helpless to account for uncovered areas. Therefore, you should always prioritize the use of UV-blocking sunglasses, preferably with a close-fitting, wraparound style. If you like hats, then you should get wide-brimmed ones, for they are also helpful in mitigating your exposure to UV rays.
There are some lighting conditions that make it very difficult for you to “keep your eye on the ball.” This problem can be overcome with the usage and wear of sports eyewear with specially tinted lenses. For example, hunters have been enjoying amber-colored “shooting glasses” because they increase the contrast of birds, clay pigeons, etc. against an overcast sky. Recent years have seen the innovation of special tints for sport sunglasses that increase contrast and improve visual acuity and clarity in a wide range of different indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. Your optician can show you samples of these lenses and help you determine which tints would best meet your needs.
There are some sports eyewear that has polarized lenses that help mitigate the glare from reflective surfaces, such as water, which makes them a must-have accessory for fishing and other water sports. They may also reduce glare from sunlight reflecting off of a light-colored pavement, such as an outdoor basketball court, which gives them more utility in a majority of outdoor sports.
Anti-reflective (AR) coatings are yet another great glare reducer. AR-coated sports glasses will decrease the amount of lens reflections at night if you’re playing under bright lights. You may also want to get an AR coating for the back surface of your sports sunglasses. It diminishes the glare experienced from “bounce-back” reflections that occur when sunlight hits the back of your lenses.
Photochromic lenses are another means of controlling light for optimum perceptibility and performance. These lenses will automatically darken outdoors in response to UV radiation from the sun. These lenses serve the dual purpose of decreasing the intensity of the light reaching your eyes to a more tolerable level and simultaneously providing 100% UV protection.
Convenience and Comfort
There are many people who prefer to wear eyeglasses at work and for other daily activities, while wearing contact lenses when they partake in outdoor sports. Contact lenses offer unhindered side vision and more natural-appearing vision. There are no unwanted changes in the sizes of images that eyeglasses can sometimes produce.
Daily disposable soft contact lenses are an excellent option for sports because they don’t need to be cleaned. You wear them just once and then throw them away once you’re done for the day. This feature makes them especially appealing to someone who normally wears eyeglasses.
Also, since they are made of a soft, oxygen-permeable material, daily disposable soft lenses require little, if any adaptation. So even if you haven’t worn contact lenses for at least a week, then you can still usually wear a pair of daily disposable lenses comfortably for a full day of sports or other outdoor activities.
Remember, although contacts offer visual and other advantages over glasses for sports (ex. no fogging up, they won’t fall off when you’re sweating, etc.), you will still need to wear protective eyewear over contact lenses to totally protect your eyes from injuries and/or UV radiation exposure.
Protective Sports Eyewear
Today, you will see sports eyewear on almost anyone who picks up a ball, bat, racquet or stick. Fortunately, coaches, parents, and players now realize the advantages of wearing protective eyewear for sports. The risk of eye injury is substantially reduced, if not outright eliminated, and the player’s performance is boosted by the fact that they can see clearly and sharply. In fact, many clubs will now not allow their members to participate without wearing proper eye gear.
Initially, some children refused to wear protective eyewear on the grounds that it made them “look funny.” Today, sports goggles have become an accepted part of everyday life, much in the same way that bike helmets have become the norm. In addition, both children and adults alike like the image that wearing protective eyewear gives them: it shows that they mean serious business on the playing field.
If you’re not wearing protective eyewear, consider this…
Prevent Blindness America has reported that hospital emergency rooms treat 40,000 sports-related eye injuries every year. Sports such as racquetball, tennis, and badminton may seem relatively harmless, but they involve objects moving at speeds of at least 60 mph. During a typical game, a racquetball can travel between 60 and 200 mph. Another potential hazard is that the racquets themselves move at high speeds in an enclosed space and often make physical contact with one another.
Unfortunately, the potential risks don’t stop at just flying objects. Many eye injuries are a result of pokes and jabs by fingers and elbows, particularly in those games where players are in close contact with each other, such as basketball, which has an extremely high rate of eye injury.
This reason alone should suffice when you consider the decision of whether or not you should wear wear protective eyewear. Another aspect has to do with performance. It used to be commonplace for people with mild to moderate prescription strength powers to simply partake in sports without wearing their glasses or contacts. But sharp vision is a vital element of performing well in nearly every sport. Partaking in sports when you have less than 20/20 vision will only be counterproductive.
Features to Look For
Prescription glasses, sunglasses, and even on-the-job industrial safety glasses lack a satisfactory measure of protection for sports use. Sports goggles are made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are even designed to fit in helmets used for football, baseball, and hockey. Sports goggles should allow the use of helmets when the sport calls for it, for they go hand-in-hand in protecting the athlete from harm.
Lenses in sports eyewear are usually made of polycarbonate. As was mentioned previously, the impact-resistant capabilities of polycarbonate serve it well in protecting eyes from fast-moving objects. Polycarbonate lenses also have built-in, 100% UV protection and are coated to be scratch-resistant, giving them excellent utility as a sports accessory.
While polycarbonate is the material of choice for sports lenses, let’s not forget that the eyewear frames play just as important a role. Different sports require different types of frames, which have led to development of sports-specific frames. Sports frames are constructed of highly impact-resistant plastic or polycarbonate, with most coming with rubber padding to help cushion the frames where they come into contact with your head and the bridge of your nose.
Some sports styles are contoured, which means that they wrap slightly around the face. This type of sports goggles works well for biking, hang-gliding, and sailing. For those of you who are contact lens wearers, you particularly benefit from the wraparound style, which shields your eyes from wind, dust, and other debris.
A Note About Handball Goggles
At one time, handball goggles for those didn’t need vision correction were simply goggles with small openings in place of lenses. It was eventually recognized that the high speed of flying handballs compressed the ball enough to protrude through these small openings and cause serious eye damage. If you play handball and/or racquetball, then you should wear goggles with impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses for the best protection possible during your activities.
Important Fitting Considerations
Sports goggles must be a proper fit to each individual wearer. This is particularly important in regards to children because there is an enticement to purchase a larger size pair of goggles than what is needed today so that the youngster has “room to grow.” Some growing room is acceptable because sports goggles are made to be somewhat supple in regards to their width adjustment. However, if the frames are oversized, then they will not protect the face in the way that they were designed to, which leaves a potential for injury when the head or face is impacted. It’s an unnecessary risk that is not worth taking.
By the same token, permitting a child to continue to wear goggles that he/she has outgrown can be just as hazardous. Firstly, the frames will be uncomfortable, which would induce the child to take them off. Secondly, the frames may hamper side vision, which leads to poor performance and a potential for collision from unseen sources to either side. You should check how well your child’s sports eyewear fits each year to ensure that they are a comfortable fit and can still provide proper protection. To this end, you should make sure that the padding inside the sides of the goggles rests flush with the face and the eyes are centered in the lenses area.
Scuba Diving Masks and Swim Goggles
Swimmers and scuba divers who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses could benefit from wearing prescription swimming goggles when they’re in the water.
These special types of sports eyewear require a different prescription from that of a regular eyeglasses prescription because of the distinctive characteristics of an underwater environment. Water itself acts as a magnifier of images, which is why fish in a tank or other underwater objects sometimes appear larger than they actually are. Because light travels and refracts differently through water than it does through air, your optometrist will need to modify your eyeglasses prescription to ensure that your underwater sports eyewear will give you the same visual acuity and clarity that your glasses provide you when you’re on dry land.
Also, depending on the style of the diving mask or swim goggles you choose, you may need to change your prescription to accommodate for the positioning of the lenses in relation to the eyes, which may differ from the normal position of your eyeglass lenses.
Scuba Diving Masks
Scuba diving masks have two different types of prescription lenses to choose from: 1) either the entire front of the mask is a prescription lens, or 2) corrective lenses are put in place between the mask and your eyes. If the diving mask comes with prescription lenses, then they may be either customized for your vision correction needs, or fit with a prescription for nearsightedness (AKA myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia) that is the same for both eyes.
Most people who require corrective lenses have a similar prescription for both eyes, therefore giving a diving mask with pre-prescribed lenses greater utility in that they make vision sharper and clearer for reading gauges, maneuvering around underwater, and other related activities. Even though these special prescription lenses don’t correct for astigmatism, most people who have astigmatism can still function very well with a spherical (i.e. without astigmatism) correction in the water.
Diving masks made with lenses designed to accommodate your unique measurements and prescription power are generally more expensive than their pre-prescribed counterparts.
Some diving masks are designed to allow personalized prescription lens inserts to be attached to the inside of the front of the mask. This alternative provides a more accurate vision correction. But, depending on the depth, temperature, and type of water that you’re in, lens inserts may make their fogging more troublesome.
However, if you wear contacts, then you might stand to gain from a diving mask that allows prescription lens inserts because they give you the choice of whether or not to wear contacts. If you have the contact lenses in as you go for a dive, then there’s no need for you to use the prescription insert. But if you do go diving without your contact lenses on, then you can put the prescription lens inserts in the mask for a clear and sharp underwater experience.
It’s usually a better idea to dive and swim without contacts lest they be contaminated underwater. You also have the option of wearing daily disposable soft contacts and discarding them as soon as you’re back on dry land.
Swimming goggles are much smaller and thus fit closer to your eyes than a diving mask does. They are designed to protect your eyes from the water and while simultaneously being sleek and discreet at the same time to let you swim unhindered. There is a seal made of rubber or silicone that surrounds the lenses and keeps water away from your eyes.
As with diving masks, swimming goggles are also available with pre-prescribed prescription lenses that have the same power for both eyes. Since swimming goggles are usually used when swimming in a pool, these pre-prescribed prescription lenses will usually provide good clear, sharp vision. However, customized prescription swimming goggles are also a possible choice to consider.
Shooting Glasses and Hunting Eyewear
Hunters and gun enthusiasts too require eye protection, whether they are practicing at a shooting range or going out for a hunt in the woods. This is obligatory because of a certain amount of recoil that all guns have. Additionally, the debris that one experiences from the plethora of environmental elements in many outdoor shooting activities is also problematic.
Pre-made nonprescription sports goggles are sufficient if you don’t need vision correction or if you already wear contact lenses. Most of these goggles have the always-helpful wraparound style to shield the eyes from the debris. However, the quality of the lenses can vary in pre-made goggles. Make sure that the lenses are made of polycarbonate for the premier impact-resistance and UV protection.
Frame Features to Look For
If you need prescription lenses for better focusing, or you simply want to use the best shooting eyewear available, then you should check out shooting glasses in styles similar to aviator sunglasses.
However, shooting glasses eyewear comes pack with more features than the conventional aviator-shaped frame for everyday wear. Most importantly, the frames should be safety-rated and with a strong rim to hold the lenses in place. Some styles have a sweat bar that runs the width of the frame above the lenses to add more stability to the fitting of the frame on the face and catch any sweat that may fall from your forehead. Others have special padding on the frames around the eyes that cushion the frames against your face in case the gun recoils too far. The padding also acts as a barrier that shields your eyes from the elements.
The temples of shooting glasses are often outfitted with spring hinges that allow the frames to flex without breaking when the gun recoils. Another popular option is the temples that wrap around the ear in the cable style to help keep the frames steady in place.
Adjustable nose pads help fit the frames in the best position possible, with softer silicone materials providing extra comfort.
Shooting glasses frames are constructed of the same types of materials as standard eyewear, including titanium and other metals, regular plastic, and polycarbonate.
Choose the Right Lenses
Polycarbonate lenses are the lenses of choice due to their scratch and impact-resistant hard coat and built-in UV protection. The exemplary impact resistance offers maximum blowback and bounceback protection. Recently, there have been some newly developed lens materials that are also feature some good impact-resistance capabilities.
There are many nonprescription shooting glasses that come with several pairs of interchangeable lenses, each for use under a different kind of lighting condition. You can order prescription lenses for your glasses in whichever you color you like best.
There are many shooters who utilize yellow or orange colored prescription lenses. When lenses are colored yellow or orange, they will block haze and blue light and augment the orange color of the target. The brighter the yellow shade of the lenses, the better the lenses will be for usage in foggy or low-light conditions.
Alternatively, a light purple colored set of lenses is good for improving the orange of the target against a background of tall trees. This light purple shade is comprised of a combination of neutral gray and vermillion, with the vermillion itself being useful in highlighting those conditions in which there is poor background, such as trees, and to enhance the target against the background. Gray is a neutral, AKA true, color that lets you see all colors as they actually are. Gray colored shooting glasses lenses do not serve to enhance the target, but they are advantageous in bright sunlight.
Shooting glasses polarized lenses can be colored in just about any color. As mentioned before, polarized lenses are an excellent choice when hunting near water because they reduce the amount of glare that is reflected off of the clear surface of a body of water.
What Sports Vision Doctors Can Do for You
Seeing 20/20 isn’t the only measure of good vision. The sharpness of vision (20/20, etc.) is certainly essential. But good vision isn’t limited to just the quality of vision; it involves an effective, combined usage of a set of several skills, including depth perception, side visual field awareness, hand-eye coordination, and more.
All of these visual skills are extremely critical in sports, whether you play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, or racquet sports.
If you want to perform at your absolute best in sports, then you may profit from seeing an optician who specializes in sports vision, even if you already have a rating of 20/20 vision. This is because a typical vision screen usually doesn’t take into consideration tests of visual skills that are important to optimal sports performance.
Sports vision testing is more extensive and can be adapted to the specific sport you are interested in participating in. During a sports vision exam, you can expect the examiner to include tests to assess how well you see while you are moving around outdoors and interacting with other objects or players.
Not only do professional athletes work on their sports vision, but also high school and college athletes, tennis players, recreational golfers, and even billiards players. Some non-sports professionals stand to gain from the same type of intensive vision training, including law enforcement personnel and pilots.
When you visit a sports vision specialist, he/she will probably give you a comprehensive eye examination and will ask you questions about your daily activities. Further testing will determine your sports-related needs. These tests may include the usage of 3D, holographic images that you can react to as if they were real, as well as computerized tests that measure your reaction time and hand-eye coordination.
There may also be actual on-field measuring of your reactions to various sports situations, depending on the sport. There are many sports vision experts who would attend your games or matches to help them better gauge your visual performance. They may also study recorded videos of your games.
You may require only a singular visit to a specialist to set you on the path to better sports visual performance. However, in many cases, it is recommended that you opt for a comprehensive sports vision training program to help you better develop your sports visual skills to the point that they instinctive and intuitive.