Last line of defense: Sports-safe eyewear a must

Last line of defense: Sports-safe eyewear a must

A storied collegiate rivalry did as much to stir a conversation about eyewear as it did football recently, presenting eye doctors with a teachable moment for their athletic patients.

"It's the responsibility of optometrists, coaches and trainers to ensure their athletes are outfitted with the proper vision correction."

Affectionately known as The Game among Harvard and Yale faithful, the annual gridiron showdown already takes the brunt of good-spirited jests about Ivy League football. Yet it was Harvard's kicker and his choice of eyewear that fanned the flames.

Underneath his Crimson helmet, Senior Andrew Flesher wore 'dress wear,' prescription glasses as opposed to sports goggles or contacts as he kicked a 25-yard field goal in Harvard's 31 to 24 win on Nov. 22. The sight went viral on sports and social media, not only due to the context but also due to downright worries over the durability of such frames on the playing field.

Sports eyewear means business
Athletes using 'dress wear' glasses (that do not conform to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard F803) are at a greater risk for eye injury than those not wearing any eye protection, according to the Coalition to Prevent Sports Eye Injuries—a sentiment that Fraser Horn, O.D., AOA Sports Vision Section chair, echoes.

Regular prescription eyeglasses are not a substitute for appropriate, well-fitted protective eyewear, and the AOA recommends athletes need to use eyewear that is tailored for the specific sport. Remind athletic patients about impact-resistant frames and polycarbonate sports lenses.

"While football does not have as many eye injuries as basketball—the No. 1 sport for eye-related injuries in the United States—there is still risk," Dr. Horn says. "Hopefully, next time the kicker comes out, he will have contact lenses and a face shield."

Fred Edmunds, O.D., AOA SVS vice-chair, goes further to say, "This does provide us with the opportunity to remind athletes requiring vision correction that they should wear contact lenses or protective prescription eyewear specifically approved for sport. Indeed, it's the responsibility of optometrists, coaches and trainers to ensure their athletes are outfitted with the proper vision correction."

Vision plays a fundamental role in sports or athletic activities, making eye doctors a vital resource for helping players perform to their fullest. Reinforce with patients the importance of protective eyewear to prevent sports-related eye injuries.

Click here for more information about the Sports Vision Section, and click here to find patient education materials about sports and vision at AOA Marketplace.

December 4, 2014

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