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  • AAP and AAO Communications Advisory Board
    Comprehensive Ophthalmology
    Compendium Type: III


    Protective Eyewear for Young Athletes
    The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly recommend protective eyewear for all participants in sports in which there is risk of eye injury. Protective eyewear should be mandatory for athletes who are functionally one-eyed and for athletes whose ophthalmologists recommend eye protection after eye surgery or trauma.


    More than 42,000 sports and recreation-related eye injuries were reported in 2000.1 Seventy-two percent of the injuries occurred in individuals younger than 25 years, 43% occurred in individuals younger than 15 years, and 8% occurred in children younger than 5 years.1 Children and adolescents may be particularly susceptible to injuries because of their aggressive play, athletic maturity,2-4 and poor supervision in some recreational situations.

    The sports highlighted in this statement were chosen on the basis of their popularity and/or the high incidence of eye injuries in that sport. Participation rates and information on the severity of the injuries are unavailable; therefore, the relative risk of significant injuries cannot be determined for various sports. Baseball and basketball are associated with the most eye injuries in athletes 5 to 24 years old.1

    The eye-injury risk of a sport is proportional to the chance of the eye being impacted with sufficient energy to cause injury. The risk is not correlated with the classification of sports into collision, contact, and noncontact categories. Instead, the risk of eye injury to the unprotected player is roughly categorized as high risk, moderate risk, low risk, and eye safe. The sports included in each of these categories are listed in Table 1.

    Table 1: Categories of Sports Eye-Injury Risk to the Unprotected Player5

    High Risk

    Moderate Risk

    Low Risk

    Eye Safe

    Small, fast projectiles



    Track and field*

    Air rifle




    BB gun


    Skiing (snow and water)



    Noncontact martial arts
    Hard projectiles, “sticks,” close contact
    Water polo





    Baseball / softball




    Lacrosse (men’s and women’s)

    Hockey (field and ice)




    Intentional injury


    Full-contact martial arts

    *Javelin and discus have a small but definite potential for injury. However, good field supervision can reduce the extremely low risk injury to near- negligible.

    All athletes and their parents should be made aware of the risks associated with participation in sports and the availability of a variety of certified sports eye protectors. Although eye protectors cannot eliminate the risk of injury, appropriate eye protectors have been found to reduce the risk of significant eye injury by at least 90% when properly fitted.4,6,7 It would be ideal if all children and adolescents wore appropriate eye protection for all eye-risk sports and recreational activities.

    Physicians should strongly recommend that athletes who are functionally one-eyed wear appropriate eye protection during all sports, recreational, and work-related activities. Functionally one-eyed athletes are those who have a best corrected visual acuity of worse than 20/40 in the poorer-seeing eye.1,4,8 If the better eye is injured, functionally one-eyed athletes may be severely handicapped and unable to obtain a driver's license in many states.9

    Athletes who have had eye surgery or trauma to the eye may have weakened eye tissue that is more susceptible to injury;10 such athletes may also need additional eye protection or may need to be restricted from certain sports. They should be evaluated and counseled by an ophthalmologist prior to sports participation.

    Protective Eyewear Options

    Eye protection and different brands of sports goggles vary significantly both in the way they fit and in their capacity to protect the eye from injury. An experienced ophthalmologist, optometrist, optician, physician or athletic trainer can help an athlete select appropriate protective gear that fits well and provides the maximum amount of protection. Sports programs should assist indigent athletes in evaluating and obtaining protective eyewear.

    There are four basic types of eyewear. The two types that are satisfactory for eye-injury risk sports include:

    1. Safety sports eyewear that conforms to the requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard F803 for selected sports (racket sports, baseball fielders, basketball, women’s lacrosse, and field hockey).
    2. Sports eyewear that is attached to a helmet or for sports in which ASTM F803 eyewear is inadequate. Those for which there are standard specifications include youth baseball batters and base runners (ASTM F910), paintball (ASTM 1776), skiing (ASTM 659), and ice hockey (ASTM F513). Other protectors with specific standards are available for football and men’s lacrosse.

    The two types of eyewear that are not satisfactory for eye-injury risk sports include:

    1. Streetwear (fashion) spectacles that conform to the requirements of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z80.3.
    2. Safety eyewear that conforms to the requirements of ANSI Z87.1 that is mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for industrial and educational safety eyewear.

    Prescription or nonprescription (plano) lenses may be fabricated from any of several types of clear material, including polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is the most shatter-resistant clear lens material and should be used for all safety eyewear.11

    Protective Eyewear Certification 
    Protectors that have been tested to an appropriate standard by an independent testing laboratory are often certified and should afford reasonable protection. The Protective Eyewear Certification Council (PECC) has begun certifying protectors that comply with the ASTM F803 (racket sports, basketball, baseball, women’s lacrosse, and field hockey), ASTM F117 (paintball), and ASTM F910 (youth baseball batters and base runners). The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certifies products that comply with the Canadian racket-sport standard, which is similar to the ASTM standard. The Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) certifies ice hockey equipment, including helmets and face shields. The National Operating Committee on Standards in Athletic Equipment certifies baseball and football helmets as well as the face protectors for men’s lacrosse and football. For those sports with certified protectors, it is recommended that products bearing the PECC, CSA, HECC, or National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) seals be used when available.


    1. All youth involved in organized sports should be encouraged to wear appropriate eye protection.

    2. The recommended sports-protective eyewear as listed in Table 2 should be prescribed. Proper fit is essential. Because some children have narrow facial features, they may be unable to wear even the smallest sports goggles. These children may be fitted with 3-mm polycarbonate lenses in ANSI Z87.1 frames designed for children. The parents should be informed that this protection is not optimal, and the choice of eye-safe sports should be discussed.

    3. Because contact lenses offer no protection, it is strongly recommended that athletes who wear contact lenses also wear the appropriate eye protection listed in Table 2.

    4. An athlete who requires prescription spectacles has three options for eye protection: (a) polycarbonate lenses in a sports frame that passes ASTM F803 for the specific sport, (b) contact lenses plus an appropriate protector listed in Table 2, or (c) an over-the-glasses eye guard that conforms to the specifications of ASTM F803 for sports in which an ASTM F803 protector is sufficient.

    5. All functionally one-eyed athletes should wear appropriate eye protection for all sports.

    6. Functionally one-eyed athletes and those who have had an eye injury or surgery must not participate in boxing or full-contact martial arts. (Eye protection is not practical in boxing or wrestling and is not allowed in full-contact martial arts.) Wrestling has a low incidence of eye injury. Although no standards exist, eye protectors that are firmly fixed to the head have been custom made. The wrestler who has a custom eye protector made must be aware that the protector design may be insufficient to prevent injury.

    7. For sports in which a facemask or helmet with an eye protector or shield must be worn, it is strongly recommended that functionally one-eyed athletes also wear sports goggles that conform to the requirements of ASTM F803 (for any selected sport). This is to maintain some level of protection if the face guard is elevated or removed, such as for hockey or football players on the bench. The helmet must fit properly and have a chinstrap for optimal protection.

    8. Athletes should replace sports eye protectors that are damaged or yellowed with age, because they may have become weakened and are therefore no longer protective.

     Table 2: Recommended Eye Protectors for Selected Sports

    Sport Minimal Eye Protector Comment

    Baseball / softball
     (youth batter and base runner)

    ASTM F910

    Face guard attached to helmet

    Baseball / softball

    ASTM F803 for baseball

    ASTM specifies age ranges


    ASTM F803 for basketball

    ASTM specifies age ranges


    Helmet plus streetwear / fashion eyewear


    None available; not permitted in sport

    Contraindicated for functionally one-eyed athletes


    Protector with neck bib

    Field hockey (men and women)

    ASTM F803 for women’s lacrosse
    Goalie full face mask

    Protectors that pass for women’s lacrosse also pass for field hockey


    Polycarbonate eye shield attached to helmet-mounted wire face mask

    Full-contact martial arts

    None available; not permitted in sport

    Contraindicated for functionally one-eyed athletes

    Ice hockey

    ASTM F513 face mask on helmet
    Goaltenders ASTM F1587

    HECC or CSA certified
    full-face shield

    Lacrosse (men)

    Face mask attached to lacrosse helmet

    Lacrosse (women)

    ASTM F803 for women’s lacrosse
    Optional helmet


    ASTM F1776 for paintball


    Racquet sports (badminton, tennis, paddle tennis, handball, squash, and racquetball)

    ASTM F803 for selected sport


    ASTM F803 for selected sport

    Street hockey

    ASTM 513 face mask on helmet

    Must be HECC or CSA certified

    Track and field

    Streetwear with polycarbonate lenses / fashion eyewear*

    Water polo / swimming

    Swim goggles with polycarbonate lenses


    No standard available

    Optional custom protective eyewear

    * Eyewear that passes ASTM F803 is safer than streetwear eyewear for all sports activities with impact potential.


    CR-39 lenses : Lenses made of an allyl/resin plastic ("CR-39" is a registered trademark of PPC Industrial) with a center thickness of 3 mm that meet or exceed ANSI Standard No.Z87.1. Used for strong prescriptions (above - 8.00 sphere and -4.00 cylinder) for which polycarbonate is not suitable. Lenses made from this plastic are not as strong as those made with polycarbonate and should not be used in sports goggles for high eye-risk sports.

    Polycarbonate lenses: Prescription or nonprescription lenses made of polycarbonate material with a center thickness of at least 2 mm that meet or exceed ANSI Standard No.Z87.1. These are designed to fit in street-wear frames as well as sports goggles. 

    Polycarbonate shield/race guard:  Molded protective shields or face guards designed to be a part of, or to be attached to, various sports helmets.

    Sports goggles: Unhinged protective eyewear with a molded frame and temple with prescription or nonprescription polycarbonate lenses with a center thickness of 3 mm. An elastic band secures the goggles to the athlete's head. 

    Street-wear frames:  Sturdy daily-wear frames with a posterior lip to prevent inward displacement of the lenses. They should meet ANSI Standard No.Z87.1.


      1. US Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2000 Sports and Recreational Eye Injuries.
      2. Nelson LB, Wilson TW, Jeffers JB. Eye injuries in childhood: demography, etiology, and prevention. Pediatrics.1989;84:438-441.
      3. Grin TR, Nelson LB, Jeffers JB. Eye injuries in childhood. Pediatrics.1987;80:13-17.
      4. Jeffers JB. An on-going tragedy: pediatric sports-related eye injuries. Semin Ophthalmol. 1990;5:216-223.
      5. Vinger PF. A Practical Guide for Sports Eye Protection. The Physicians and Sportsmedicine. June 2000;28(6).
      6. Larrison WI, Hersh PS, Kunzweiler T, Shingleton BJ. Sports-related ocular trauma. Ophthalmology. 1990;97:1265-1269.
      7. Strahlman E, Sommer A. The epidemiology of sports-related ocular trauma. Int Ophthalmology Clin.1988;28:199-202.
      8. Wichmann S, Martin DR. Single-organ patients: balancing sports with safety. Phys Sports Med.1992;20:176-182.
      9. Federal Highway Administration. Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation; 1988.
      10. Vinger PF. The eye and sports medicine. In: Tasman W, ed. Duane’s Clinical Ophthalmology. Philadelphia, PA: JB Lippincott; 1994;chap 45.
      11. Vinger PF, Parver L, Alfaro D III, Woods T, Abrams BS. Shatter resistance of spectacle lenses. JAMA. 1997;277:142-144.


    American Academy of Ophthalmology, Communications Department, PO Box 7424, San Francisco, CA 94120-7424

    Prevent Blindness America (formerly National Society to Prevent Blindness), 500 E. Remington Road, Schaumburg, IL 60173


    Approved by:

    American Academy of Pediatrics, Board of Directors, February 1996
    American Academy of Ophthalmology, Board of Trustees, February 1995

    Revised and Approved by:

    American Academy of Pediatrics, Board of Directors, October 2003
    American Academy of Ophthalmology, Board of Trustees, November 2003
    American Academy of Pediatrics, Board of Directors, June 2011
    American Academy of Ophthalmology, Board of Trustees, April 2013

    ©2013 American Academy of Ophthalmology®
    P.O. Box 7424 / San Francisco, CA 94120-7424 / 415.561.8500