When we imagine a well-protected athlete, we picture a strong and durable helmet for ball sports, pads and braces for high-intensity contact sports and a multitude of rules and regulations, set in stone to prevent broken bones and chipped teeth.
What many can often forget is that in order for an athlete to be successful, one of the most important parts of the body to protect are the eyes. With the dangers of contact sports frequently leading to fractured eye sockets, scratched corneas and in the worst-case scenario, vision loss, protecting your eye health has never been more important on the sporting field.
Over 25,000 people receive medical attention for sports-related injuries each year due to disregarding protective eyewear when engaging in high-intensity sport. Most of these, however, can be prevented when athletes take appropriate precaution when preparing to play.
Common Sporting Eye Injuries
Sport-related eye injuries most commonly occur when an athlete disregards the appropriate safety equipment when engaging in their game. For those who lack precaution when preforming in popular sports such as football, rugby and cricket, here are some of the possible eye-related traumas that can occur:
- Blunt Trauma: This is quite possibly the most common form of sports-related eye injury, caused when the eye is hit directly by either a ball or a bat. Depending on the force of the blow, direct trauma to the eye can cause socket damage and in some cases vision loss.
- UV Damage: The eye’s most common enemy is often the sun, proving to be a silent offender when it comes to athlete eye health. Sportspeople who play under intense sunlight such as tennis and volleyball players are most likely to be victims of UV ray damage, alongside those who engage in winter sports. Without sufficient eye protection, radiation can cause a number of eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration which can impair vision and stop you from playing sport altogether.
- Scratching and Penetration: Less common but still serve is the penetration of the eye when something actively cuts or scratches the cornea during contact sport. This type of injury is easily treated but can be easily prevented by wearing protective eyewear.
Protection & Prevention
The good news for budding athletes is that over 90% of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented when investing in the appropriate protective equipment and maintaining optimal eye health and wellbeing.
Athletes who take active steps to invest in shielding eyewear, a healthy eating plan and participate in frequent eye examinations often find that they are in the sporting game for longer. Strong visual health is vital in most sports, making it an important factor to consider when maintaining your health and wellness as an athlete.
Below are a few simple steps that athletes can follow in order to protect their vision and maintain their eye health.
Invest In Protective Eyewear
Nearly all blunt force and penetrative eye injuries can be prevented simply by investing in protective eyewear. Ranging from safety glasses to shields, goggles and protective eye guards, the list is endless in terms of finding eyewear that suits your particular sport and style.
What’s more, is that most sporting focused eyewear is often made of polycarbonate, which is a durable material designed to withstand heavy impact without shattering. This material is highly recommended for contact sport athletes who are likely to be tackled in rugby or American football.
The style also doesn’t need to be compromised when choosing protective eyewear. Protective glasses and goggles come in different designs for both men and women. If you’re looking for a stylish approach to protection, ‘wrap around’, classic style eyewear, such as Oakley, combines shielding with sophistication.
Radiation and frequent sun exposure can be a real danger to the visual health of professional athletes as they can increase the risk of developing cataract and macular degeneration. UV damage to the eyes can be nothing short of career-ending for many athletes, so for those who find themselves hitting a ball under the blazing sun for up to 8 hours a day, sunglasses are a must for protection.
For maximum eye protection, invest in sunglasses that block 90-100% of both UVA and UVB radiation. Polarised sunglasses are also a great addition to an athlete’s protective equipment as they are designed to reduce glare and even improve athletic performance!
Maintain Eye Health Off The Pitch
Quite possibly the most important factor to consider when protecting your eyes on and off the playing field is your visual health and how you can maintain it.
According to Vision2020, over 80% of vision impairment is either avoidable or treatable. Therefore, healthy athletes often see the most success when partaking in regular eye exams and seeking ophthalmological treatment to address any underlying visual impairments.
Maintaining your eye health at home is also important as an athlete. We see sportspeople eating specific foods to promote muscle gain and retain maximum fitness, but did you know there are specific foods you can eat to help maintain your visual wellbeing? Eating foods rich with Vitamins A and C, such as fish and leafy greens can improve the health of the macula which is responsible for your central vision.
Maintaining full-body health is important when training and practising as a professional athlete. Focusing on all aspects of your wellbeing, including eye health is imperative when aiming for success. Using preventive and protective techniques, professional sportspeople are more likely to have long and fulfilling careers, destined for triumph.