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3.4 Glasses - Should We Use Them for Sports or Are There Alternatives?

Spectacles for the practice of sport only those that comply with international standards.

Never "normal" glasses!

There are no alternatives that provide adequate protection.

The exact incidence of ocular trauma in the context of sports practice is unknown, however, it is safe to say that it is not uncommon.

In 2000 alone, more than 42,000 eye injuries associated with sports in the United States of America were reported, which is certainly be an underestimation of the actual number of occurrences.

In addition to the number, the potential severity of these injuries is great; in fact, one-third of the ocular trauma that leads to blindness in the United States occurs in the context of sports practice.

Fortunately, studies indicate that more than 90% of these traumas can be prevented if proper eye protection is used!

Sports that cause the largest number of eye injuries have great variation across countries, reflecting their relative popularity.

For example, in the United States, injuries occur most frequently during baseball and basketball, while in Europe and Israel, the most frequently associated sport is football.

It is important to note that the risk of eye injury does not correlate with the classic classification of sports such as collision, contact or non-contact.

The likelihood of an eye injury is only related to the possibility of the eye suffering an impact with sufficient energy to cause injury.

For this purpose, the American Academy of Ophthalmology divides sports as High Risk, Moderate Risk, Low Risk, and Safe.

In some high-risk sports such as Paintball, Ice Hockey or Baseball, the compulsory use of certain types of eye protection (and facial protection) must comply with the defined standards.

The drastic reduction in the number of ocular injuries in these sports since these norms were implemented is a testimony to their effectiveness: from the implementation of the use of an obligatory facial mask in ice hockey in 1977 up to the year 2004 no occurrence of a serious ocular lesion was registered.

Other sports that fall under this group or in the Moderate Risk group (in which football is framed) do not demand the compulsory use of any protective equipment, passing the burden of the decision oneself, its legal representatives and/or the assistant ophthalmologist.

In this decision, the presence of previous ocular pathology, previous ocular surgery, and visual acuity are determining factors.

Obviously, the practice of sport always involves the acceptance of some risk, but this should be minimized as much as possible.

Ophthalmologic assessment and risk assessment and clarification are essential for an appropriate decision.

A case that does not merit discussion is in athletes who are functionally monocular (visual acuity of one eye <20/40), in these cases it is mandatory to use eye protection in any sport!



In any circumstance, if the decision to use eye protection is made, this must be done in accordance with international standards.

If the sport does not have its own regulations (Paintball, Ice Hockey, American Football, etc.) the prescription must respect the standard of the American Society for Testing and Materials.

ASTM F-803 (originally defined for squash) which, among other specifications, involves the use of polycarbonate lens with a minimum of 3 mm thickness.

The use of glasses that do not meet these specifications, in addition to not conferring any adequate degree of protection, may also contribute to the risk of further injury due to frame breakage, lens displacement or even lens breakage.



Ophthalmology Department São João Hospital. Porto, Portugal

(Head of Department: Falcão-Reis)

Ophthalmology Department São João Hospital, Porto, Portugal

(Head of Department: Falcão-Reis)