I remember talking to one of my best friends in optometry school about hitting. He was a division one baseball player and was explaining to me what it was like trying to hit a 90mph fastball. In summary, it’s hard. But the funny thing to us as optometrists, was him talking about trying to hit before vs. after he had contacts.
He had never had an eye exam, so he was trying to succeed in this extremely challenging sport with blurry vision. He didn’t know his vision could be improved, and when he finally got an exam and fitted with his prescription contacts, he talked about big of a difference it made for him. “The baseball looked like a volleyball compared to what it was before”.
This is a story I hear often from patients, especially athletes. A lot of times, they may not know their vision can be improved. And contact lenses are usually, the best way to improve your vision for athletics. I had the opportunity to play football for the Arkansas Razorback football team as a tight end, and sports were always a big part of my life growing up. Whether playing football, basketball, or baseball I always wanted to be playing sports. As an optometrist, I know the importance of clear vision for any athlete, and a customized approach for your sport.
For most athletes, soft contact lenses will be your best option. There are several benefits when it comes to contacts over glasses during athletics. First off, from a safety standpoint, glasses can shatter or break, leading to a possibility of eye injury. Glasses also can fog or have sweat on the lenses which can disrupt clear vision. You will not have these problems with contact lenses. Contacts also offer clear peripheral vision, while glasses may limit peripheral vision due to frames. So, for most patients/athletes, a good pair of soft contact lenses will be optimal for enhancing your vision and safety during sports.
For those patients with high astigmatism or corneal disorders, a soft contact lens may not work for you. This is where a customized approach is so necessary patient to patient. A toric soft contact lens may be sufficient to correct your vision, however, a rigid gas permeable lens (RGP) may be needed if astigmatism is high or there is corneal irregularity. A rigid gas permeable lens can typically offer a little more “crisp” vision, however, it comes with a downside. An RGP is a hard lens and will typically be less comfortable for patients. It will take some time to get used to. But if you are like my buddy from optometry school, that clearer vision may be worth the time and investment.
What about water sports? This would be an exception to the rule. You should avoid contact lens wear if you are a swimmer, play water polo, or any other water sport athlete. Prescription swim goggles will likely be your best option and serve multiple purposes in keeping the water out of your eyes and correcting your vision.
As you can see, contact lenses can be a huge upgrade for my patients who are athletes. From a vision standpoint to a safety standpoint, contact lenses can be an upgrade and necessary for you. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the types of sports you plan on playing so that they can care for the vision and safety of your eyes during events. The goal is to spend more time scoring touchdowns and hitting home runs, not worrying about your vision.