Sports and Contact Lenses

This Web page answers some commonly-asked questions about contact lenses and sports. Your eye care doctor is an expert on contact lenses and ocular health; he or she will be happy to answer any further questions you may have that are not addressed on this page.

I Am Active in Various Sports Activities. Do Contact lenses Offer Any Advantages over My Eyeglasses?

Contact lenses offer many advantages to the physically active person. Unlike eyeglasses, contact lenses won't:

  • slide down your nose
  • fall off
  • fog up
  • get wet in the rain and impede vision
  • crack or break
  • cause injury to the face after impact from another person or object

If you play sports or are otherwise physically active, contact lenses can free you from some of the problems associated with eyeglasses. The benefits of contact lens wear include:

  • clear peripheral vision
  • decreased image distortions, which can occur with eyeglasses
  • constant optimal correction in all angles of gaze because contact lenses move with your eyes
  • increased comfort
  • lack of mechanical device on the face -- glasses can fall or be knocked off, even when secured with a band (especially painful for the nose area where the glasses rest if caused by an impact)

For all of these reasons, contact lenses offer a safe and comfortable alternative to wearing eyeglasses during physical activity and may actually enhance your athletic performance.

I Like to Swim. Can I Wear My Contact Lenses in the Water?

You should not swim with your contact lenses on or wear them while you are in a hot tub or sauna. Your contact lenses could wash out of your eyes and be lost. Additionally, swimming pools are a source of chlorine, which can build up on your soft lenses and cause eye irritation. Most importantly, it is also possible that certain organisms present in the water could attach to your lenses and cause infection. Cases of Acanthamoeba have been associated with hot tub use while wearing contact lenses.

I Play Racquetball and Squash. Do Contact Lenses Perform Well under Eye Protectors?

It is strongly recommended, and in many cases is mandatory, that all individuals playing indoor racket sports wear eye protection. If you wear contact lenses, you can use any nonprescription eye protector on the market. The nonprescription eye protectors are, of course, much less expensive than prescription eye protectors. Anti-fog coatings are available for these products so that wearing them should not interfere with your play.

I Am Outdoors in The Sun for Long Periods of Time. Can I Get Contact Lenses with Ultraviolet Protection?

Some contact lenses can be provided with an ultraviolet (UV) filter. You should discuss this option with your eye care practitioner. It is important to note that none of the currently available contact lenses with UV filters are approved to take the place of full UV-blocking sunglasses. Also remember that contact lenses with UV filters may only protect the cornea and retina. They do not protect the conjunctiva, the eyelids, and other outer portions of the eye.

I Play Baseball. I Have Heard That Rigid Contact Lenses Are Not To Be Worn in Dusty Environments.

When a particle of dust or dirt gets behind a contact lens, irritation to the cornea occurs. If this happens, the lens must be removed and cleaned and disinfected before reinsertion. Rigid lenses are more susceptible to this problem than soft lenses, since soft lenses cover a larger area of the eye and fit closer to the eye than do rigid lenses.

Can Contact Lenses "Pop Out" of My Eyes after Physical Contact?

It is rare for a soft contact lens to "pop out" of an eye even during very active physical activity since it rests so close to the eye and is large and flexible. A rigid lens may do so under certain conditions since it rests on a thicker tear layer, is smaller than a soft lens, and much less flexible. Popping out is a rare occurrence today.

A Final Word

Millions of physically active individuals benefit from the good vision, comfort, and safety that contact lens wear provides. Be sure to discuss your activities and your interest in wearing contact lenses with your eye care provider.

The above information is taken from the CLAO Patient Information Pamphlet titled CONTACT LENSES AND SPORTS. Pamphlet Advisors were Melvin I. Freeman, MD and John S. Massare, PhD. Copyright 1994-2004 Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Inc.