Vision Health

Protect Your Eyes During Exercise

For many of us, the warmer seasons mean more exercise. And you’re probably taking several safety factors into account: how to protect yourself from dehydration or the sun’s damaging and even deadly rays. We should think about our sight as well. According to the National Institutes of Health, emergency room doctors treated an estimated 42,000 sports-related eye injuries each year.

And 90 percent of them, the NIH says, could have been prevented with protective eyewear.

Wearing eyewear that will prevent visual damage is one of the top priorities of the federal National Eye Institute (NEI) as it marks Healthy Vision Month each May. (The others include getting a dilated eye exam, avoiding smoking; practicing good eating habits and wearing sunglasses.)

The NEI emphasizes, though, that protective eyewear does not include contact lenses, ordinary prescription eyeglasses, or even sunglasses. According to the senior fitness program Go4Life, part of the National Institute of Aging, protective eyewear does include safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards that are specially designed to provide the right protection for a certain activity.

Some activities are more dangerous than others. The NIH says that sports with moderate to high risk for eye injuries include golf, fishing, tennis, volleyball, softball, basketball and ice hockey. If you’re physically active, chances are that you engage, even if occasionally, in one of these sports.

For example, the NEI says that tennis players should wear glasses with polycarbonate lenses. Tennis doubles require goggles with polycarbonate lenses (for singles players, street-wear-type glasses with polycarbonate lenses are fine.) For a complete list of specific sports and the right protective eyewear for each, click here.

If you need to wear polycarbonate lenses, experts recommend that you make sure they’re in sports-appropriate frames or goggles, not the ordinary kind of frame you use for eyeglasses or sunglasses.

You can look for the right protective gear either at your eye doctor or in a sporting-goods story. Talk to your practitioner about what kind of eyewear is best for you. Go4Life says that packaging on protective eyewear usually mentions the sport it is meant for and includes information on the American Society for Testing and Materials standards written on the packaging.

For more information about eye health, visit the National Eye Institute at NIH website at


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