Eyecare for Children – the Problem of Sports

We always hear that children should be encouraged to play sports, to move around, to go outside and get exercise, rather than sitting in front of the computer or PlayStation. Often, however, getting children to play more sports raises the very practical question of what to do about a child’s glasses. A surprising number of sporting activities cannot accommodate the wearing of glasses, making it difficult for children who need glasses to participate in them. What sports require these special arrangements? And what are the options for combining effective eyecare with sporting fun?

Unfortunately, the majority of schools still display a somewhat nonchalant attitude to the needs of children with glasses. The fact is, however, that the wearing of glasses even during school PE lessons can significantly increase the risk of injury to the child in question. A child with glasses, when hit by a ball, will be at much greater risk of serious injury than a peer without glasses.

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Taking volleyball as an example: a child wearing glasses will have a lack of peripheral vision, which can hinder him or her from seeing what exactly teammates behind are doing with the ball. Any team sport which involves a ball – netball, basketball, cricket, rugby – suffers from these same issues. A child wearing glasses will, ultimately, be at greater risk of being inadvertently hit by the ball or by fellow enthusiastic players.

This may sound extreme – and many children wearglasses. However,many a parent whose child is near-sighted will have noticed how the lack of peripheral vision is affecting that child in everyday life. In addition to school sporting activities, many children enjoy participating in extra-curricular activities. Sports such as swimming, gymnastics, and even horse riding, however, are also much harder (if not impossible) to pursue while wearing glasses.

So what are the options?

The most obvious solution to this problem is the use of contact lenses. In the hands of a responsible child, supervised by an adult, these can be an option for children as young as nine.The advantages of contact lenses are obvious –peripheral vision; no risk of glasses-related facial injury; access to sports such as swimming. While the idea of a child inserting them into his or her own eyes might be frightening to many parents, it is worth discussing the idea with a specialist.

Contact lenses are not, however, an appropriate option for younger children, and should also not be entrusted to those children who have to be frequently reminded to wash their hands!

In cases where glasses are thus the only option, taking certain precautions can go a long way in ensuring that child’s experience of various sports is a safe and enjoyable one.

Selecting plastic over glass lenses is the first and most important step to ensure safety. Plastic is lighter, and far less liable to breakage than traditional glass lenses. Secondly, there is an option of purchasing an additional pair of specially-designed ‘sports’ glasses, which are shaped in such a way as to correspond to facial contours. These sports glasses frequently have a rubber band, which secures them around the child’s head. It is similar to that which can be seen on many TV sports people, who use it to affix their sunglasses – this might actually be a useful argument to get children to wear them, too!

There are many options, and eyecare professionals will be able to offer further and more individual advice.

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