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How Far Will You Go to Protect Your Eyes While Playing Sports?

July 20, 2011

Let’s face it: protective eye gear is never sexy. The gear is bulky, the protective glass is thick. If you’re single it’s probably going to be tough picking up a date.

But listen: even if they are not fashionable, protective eye gear is important for the same reason it’s important to wear a helmet to protect our head, pads to protect our elbows and knees and braces to support our joints.

We take the extra precautionary step of trying to prevent sports injuries like concussions, broken bones, chipped teeth and bruises, so why aren’t we motivated to take the extra step to protect our eyes from a fractured eye socket, scratched cornea or even permanent vision loss?

A broken bone will heal, even a torn ACL is not a permanent injury that will put you on the disabled list from your favorite sport for the rest of your life. A serious eye injury, however, can.

So how do you protect your eyes?

How Do I Protect My Eyes While Playing Sports?

The number of ways you can injure an unprotected eye are numerous but the ways you can protect it are pretty straightforward. The following sport-specific tips should be followed when playing to reduce eye injury.


Basketball is notorious for the stray flying elbow or accidental poke from an opponent’s finger, so it’s important to wear eye goggles at all times. Even a ball thrown into your eye can cause serious damage.


Face guards are a good idea when playing baseball. Think about it: a wild pitch, a thrown bat, a line drive, a ball lost in the son. These are all good reasons to protect your eyes. Look for face guards made out of polycarbonate metal or sturdy plastic. The eye goggles should be high quality, too.

Soccer and Football

Contact sports like soccer and football demand eye protection since a wild foot, ball, elbow or finger can cause serious damage to an unprotected eye. Full face guards are essential in football.


Hockey players are known for their missing teeth. Imagine that kind of damage to your eyes. Wild pucks, sticks, fists, fingers and elbows can be punishing instruments that severely damage your eye. When playing hockey make sure you’re wearing a full face guard made out of polycarbonate material that protects the eyes.

Racquet Sports

The velocity at which a tennis, squash or racquet ball can travel is enough to cause serious damage to your eye. And think about the quick reflexes you must have when playing indoors. You simply don’t have the time to stop a ball from crashing into your eye.

What Type of Protective Eye Gear Should I Wear?

It is important to wear not only protective eye wear, but the correct type of protective eye wear. Simply wearing prescription glasses is insufficient and I recommend seeing your optician or ophthalmologist if you wear prescription glasses.

If not, I would recommend going to a sports store that carries appropriate eye wear, trying on two or three pairs and finding a pair that is comfortable and that is specifically for racket sports. This eye wear needs to stress relieve your anterior chamber and needs to be shatter-proof.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.

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