The Importance of Vision Care for College Athletes: Enhancing Performance and Safety

Friday, May 10, 2024

The Importance of Vision Care for College Athletes: Enhancing Performance and Safety

Athletes of every skill level understand that there’s an inherent risk involved when taking part in any sport. In football, for instance, orthopedic injuries are quite common. In the case of Auburn alum-turned-NFL player Jarrett Stidham, a back injury caused the quarterback to miss the entire 2021 season. However, there’s another sports-related injury that athletes deal with and can frequently result in emergency room visits – eye injuries.

From basketball to baseball, lacrosse to hockey, ocular damage can happen in any sport where high-speed balls, collisions, or flying debris are involved. This reality emphasizes the critical importance of vision care and protection for college athletes, not only to enhance their performance but also to ensure their safety on the field, court, or track. 

Why vision care matters for athletes

Vision is fundamental to athletic performance. It influences hand-eye coordination, depth perception, reaction time, and overall situational awareness. Research shows that athletes with better visual acuity tend to perform better in their respective sports. In fact, one study found that visual skills training can significantly improve athletic performance in tasks requiring dynamic visual acuity, depth perception, and hand-eye coordination. 

Moreover, vision care isn’t just about enhancing visual skills, it also involves protecting the eyes from potential harm. Research published in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery highlights that in the US, the most common sports associated with ocular injuries include basketball, baseball, softball, football, racquetball, and soccer. This has led the American Academy of Ophthalmology to advocate for the use of protective eyewear for all participants in sports in which there is a risk of eye injury. Additionally, for outdoor sports, protective eyewear with UV protection is equally crucial to prevent long-term damage from sun exposure. 

Eye protection tips for college athletes

Wear sunglasses

Whenever athletes spend time in bright sunlight, wearing sunglasses with UV protection is essential. This applies whether they’re on or off the court. Sunglasses shield the eyes from harmful UV rays that can cause conditions such as photokeratitis, cataracts, and macular degeneration. Moreover, they reduce glare, enhance contrast, and improve visual clarity. For this, opt for sunglasses from reputable brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley. Target Optical is one retailer that carries these brands both online and offline. On their website, you can find styles such as wraparound frames or sport-specific designs that ensure a secure fit and maximum coverage for total sun protection.

Use protective eyewear

Whether it’s during practice sessions or actual games, wearing protective eyewear can reduce the risk of eye injuries by as much as 90%. For sports like basketball or racquetball, where fast-moving balls pose a threat, protective eyewear is crucial. Ideally, sports eyewear should meet standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Prevent Blindness recommends ASTM-approved eyewear with polycarbonate lenses, which are the most impact-resistant, thinner and lighter than plastic, shatterproof, and provide UV protection. Protective goggles like the SI Ballistic M Frame 3.0 from Oakley, designed to shield the eyes from high-velocity impact, find utility in sports such as squash or racquetball.

Get regular eye exams

Athletes often undergo rigorous training and face increased risk factors, such as exposure to UV rays or participation in contact sports that can impact their eye health. Regular eye exams can detect issues early on, allowing for timely intervention if needed. Furthermore, athletes with corrective lenses may require updated prescriptions to maintain peak performance. The American Optometric Association suggests scheduling comprehensive eye exams at least every two years for individuals aged 18 to 39 or annually if they’re at higher risk of developing eye conditions.

Vision care is a vital aspect of overall health and athletic performance. By adopting these simple strategies, college athletes can safeguard their vision and optimize their performance both on and off the field.

from The War Eagle Reader

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