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  • Olympic Athletes' Eye Protection

    Jun. 19, 2014

    2012 Olympic Athletes Protect Their Eyes to Stay in the Game

    Good vision is critical for nearly every sport. Olympians protect and maintain their vision during their training and performance with an array of protective eyewear. In honor of the 2012 Olympics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology shares the highlights and benefits of protective eyewear worn in several of the 2012 Olympic Games.


    Swimmers were not allowed to use goggles in the Olympics until 1976. Now, every Olympic swimmer uses them to help see under water while swimming at high speeds. Importantly, goggles also protect Olympians' eyes from chlorine and other harmful chemicals found in pool water. Renowned gold medalist Michael Phelps prefers polarized goggles to enhance his vision when he swims.

    Protective Eyewear

    Basketball can be an intense contact sport, where athletes are prone to eye injuries. One way Olympic basketball players protect their eyes from injuries is by wearing protective eyewear. Basketball goggles have lenses made from polycarbonate materials to prevent injury during a game. French Olympian and San Antonio Spurs player, Tony Parker, is especially committed to eye protection after undergoing surgery to remove a glass shard from his left eye just one month prior to the Olympic Games in London.


    Used in various outdoor Olympic sports such as track and field, beach volleyball, rowing, soccer and tennis, sunglasses are an essential piece of eyewear to keep athletes' eyes safe and ensure good vision during competition. Sunglasses protect athletes' eyes from the sun's UV rays, shield them from wind and rain, and reduce glare to keep vision sharp during performance. Depending on the sport, athletic sunglasses should also be light weight, offer traction grip to keep sunglasses secure during movement, and provide anti-fogging and distortion-free lenses for the best optical clarity. Beach volleyball player Misty May keeps her eyes sharp with specialized protection that also keeps sand out of her eyes to prevent painful corneal scratches.

    Sports-related eye injuries range from corneal abrasions and bruises on the lids to internal eye injuries, such as retinal detachment and internal bleeding. The good news is, almost all sports-related eye injuries can be prevented using appropriate protective eye wear. Proper eye protection is widely available for a variety of sports. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends choosing eye protection that has been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. Follow the lead of the Olympians and wear proper protective eyewear for all sporting-related activities.