eye health for sports

How To Protect Your Eyes When Playing Sports (and Why It’s Important)

Do you often enjoy playing sports? If so, are you taking steps to protect your eyes?

Sporting eye injuries are surprisingly common and can have devastating consequences, including permanent loss of vision. Find out why you must protect your eyes and how to do it here. 

Why it’s important to protect your eyes when playing sports

According to academic research in India, last year, more than 600,000 people across the globe suffered an eye injury during sports or recreation. In the US, one person is treated for a sports eye injury every 13 minutes. So athletes cannot afford to be complacent about the risk of injury to their eyes.

Attendees to emergency rooms frequently presented with one of the following problems:

  • Injuries from projectiles like balls and shuttlecocks
  • Trauma from pokes or hits to the eyes from racquets, bats, fellow players, etc.
  • Bangs or cuts to the eyes from falls
  • Irritating foreign bodies (like sand) caught in the eyes during play

It is widely thought that 90 percent of sports eye injuries could be avoided. Many injuries would be prevented if the use of specialist protective eyewear was more widespread.

If you are not yet wearing protective eyewear, then this is something you need to consider seriously. 

When you should wear protection

If you watch professional and international sports of almost any kind, you’ll notice that an increasing number of players are wearing protective eyewear.

The vast majority of sports carry a high risk of falls, hits, and bangs, or being hit by a fast-moving object, so it is important for these players that they protect their vision and the longevity of their career. 

Amateurs should wear eye protection, too. At any level of sport, the risks are just too great to ignore. Children should also wear eye protective gear. When choosing a sports club or academy for your child, for example, be sure they prioritize the children’s eye safety.

For high-impact sports like ice hockey or American football, it’s important to wear the maximum possible protection, i.e. a helmet with faceguard. Goggles can be worn underneath, too.

Racquet sports and other ball sports require safety goggles that will protect the eyes and stay in position during play. Even for low impact sports like cycling, safety glasses, or goggles should be considered. You can protect your eyes from flying debris this way.

What you should look for in sports safety eyewear

You need to ensure you are choosing the right level of protection for the sport you are playing. But you also need the eyewear to be comfortable and secure, too. Here are some tips to help you find the right product

  • Sports goggles are available in a range of sizes and are adjustable too, which means it should be fairly simple to find a pair that fits you, even if you need to fit them under a helmet. Goggles in children’s sizes are readily available, too. 
  • If you need to not worry about eyewear falling off during play, then lightweight sports glasses may be suitable for you. 
  • The lenses of any sports eyewear should be made of polycarbonate. This is an impact-resistant and shatterproof material. It also has in-built UV protection, so these will help protect your eyes from harmful radiation from the sun. 
  • For extra comfort, look for eye protection gear with padding around the nose and eyes. 
  • Consider whether you need contoured or wraparound eyewear. This can help keep out dust and debris.  

What to do if you already wear prescription glasses or lenses

If you are wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses for myopia control (shortsightedness) then you will likely need prescription eyewear for sports, too. There are a few options for you.


Your regular eyeglasses are unlikely to provide much impact protection, and they are also vulnerable to breakages during games. The frames may also inhibit your peripheral vision, which, therefore, may affect your performance. It is advisable that you find another option that allows you to see clearly and protect your vision at the same time. 

Protective sports eyewear is available with prescription lenses. These have all the safety advantages of non-prescription sports eyewear, and there would be no need for you to wear anything else during play.

Contact lenses

It is possible to wear contact lenses with non-prescription safety eyewear. This is actually a popular option. However, it may be advisable to look for wraparound eyewear that prevents dust or sand from entering the eye area. These foreign bodies can cause greater discomfort for contact lens wearers. 

Other options

You may also wish to look at other ways of managing your myopia, such as Ortho-K lenses which are worn overnight only.  There are also surgical techniques to correct shortsightedness, like LASIK. Both these options are ideal for sports enthusiasts as there would no longer be a need for prescription eyewear during play. 

Taking care of your eyesight during sport is simple and straightforward, whatever sport you play. When you consider the potential risks, including permanent loss of sight, there is every reason to get your safety eyewear organized as soon as possible. 



Dr. Millicent M. Grim, Specialist Ophthalmologist & LASIK Specialist, is the Medical Director of Gulf Eye Center in Dubai. Since 2002, Gulf Eye Center’s highly qualified ophthalmologists and optometrists/ODs have been successfully treating a wide range of eye conditions using advanced techniques. They also provide comprehensive eye care and vision restoration procedures for people of all ages.