Eye Protection for Sports
In 1984, while playing a casual round of golf, I heard someone yell my name, and I turned. Even though that injury occurred more than 30 years ago, I can still hear the sound of the golf ball shattering my prescription glasses into my right eye. To say that I am lucky to be able to see from the eye is an understatement!
Why use eye protection for sports? Prevent Blindness America estimates there is 40,000 eye related sports injuries yearly. Any game with balls, racquets (paddles) and flying objects pose a threat to the eyes.
A well-hit pickleball from the baseline travels at approximately 25-30 mph. At the non-volley zone, speeds approach 30-40 mph, enough to damage the eyes. Now factor in a paddle or a finger to the face from an overly aggressive partner and there are some great reasons to start wearing protective lenses.
In addition to impact protection, aging athletes eyes are more susceptible to the damage caused by the suns UV rays. Physicians and scientists believe this damage is cumulative across our lifetime. It’s one of the reasons we are more susceptible to cataracts and diseases like age-related macular degeneration.
Now that you are at least thinking about the risk to your eyes from pickleball and the sun, what’s the best eye protection for sports?
Glasses that fit snugly and comfortably
Keep your eyes safe
Enhance your vision
Most experts agree that prescription glasses or sunglasses aren’t enough. Polycarbonate lenses with a sports specific safety frame are best and prices start as low as $20 for nonprescription glasses.
The ophthalmologist later told me that regardless of the damage done by the glass fragments, the glasses softened the impact and likely saved my eye. (Polycarbonate and other non-shattering lens material were just making their way to market and glass was standard material for prescription lenses.)
A secondary question to what is the best eye protection for sports is what the best tint is?
Bob Howells published this in-depth post for The Wirecutter. Why listen to Bob? He’s an active So-Cal based athlete and has been reviewing sunglasses for more than 20 years for publications like Outside magazine.
Personally, I experiment with my eyewear for each sport. For golf, contacts with a brown tinted golf specific wraparound sunglasses. This combination provides me with the best clarity for reading greens.
For skiing, once again, contacts with a UVEX goggle with a take-off lens at the resort. However, backcountry skiing is a little different, contacts with a 96% sun filter lens with a wrap around frame. That combination eliminates most of the high sierra sun and keeps me cool while climbing.
For pickleball, contacts stink! My contacts are designed for distance vision making it hard to pick up the ball as it gets close to the paddle. Prescription glasses with a brown transition lens have been the best combination.
Not sure what is the best eye protection for your eyes? Make an appointment with an eye care professional today!
Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)
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