With 32 percent of the world’s population living with myopia, it’s not surprising that there are short-sighted people in all walks of life. But it may surprise some folks to know just how many of them are top athletes. After all, the image of a glasses-wearing sportsperson is something that isn’t exactly mainstream. However, there’s nothing to stop short-sighted people from pursuing their favourite sports – even if they require superb vision to perform well, says Australian behavioural optometrist Jacqueline Gattegno
“AFL star Danyle Pearce is a good example,” says Jacqueline. “His poor ball handling skills were holding him back – until a visit to an optometrist uncovered the fact that his vision was to blame for the faults in his gameplay. All it took for this player to reach the top of his game was a good pair of contact lenses.”
Olympic swimmer and gold medallist Mark Horton is yet another short-sighted athlete. In his case, prescription swimming goggles make it possible for him to see clearly in the water. Once out of the pool, he dons his regular glasses again. Cricketer Chris Rodgers is yet another famous sporting myope, as is New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori, and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is also among the world’s most famous contact-lens-wearing athletes.
Glasses and Sports Don’t Always go Well Together
There’s no denying that wearing glasses and playing sports don’t always go well together, and that’s why athletes are rarely seen wearing glasses. “It limits their peripheral vision, and in contact sports, broken glasses could lead to a bad accident,” says Jacqueline. “But just because people don’t see athletes wearing spectacles doesn’t mean that there aren’t short-sighted athletes.”
“Some of them, like the golfer Tiger Woods, opt for surgery to correct myopia, but that’s a big step. Contact lenses are safe for use in most sports, and they aren’t the only non-surgical option. Ortho-K lenses that reshape the cornea while people sleep are suitable for many patients, and if they use them, they don’t need to wear glasses or contact lenses during the day to enjoy perfect vision.”
In some sports, eyewear isn’t particularly limiting. For example, runners and cyclists often choose prescription sports eyewear. There are snugly-fitting frames that don’t easily slip or jostle out of place, and Jaqueline adds that the addition of UV protection will protect their eyes against sun damage.
For those who are short-sighted and eager to participate in sports, there are many options available, and the one that suits them best will depend on the type of sport they want to play. The best place to begin is with a visit to an optometrist with experience in sports vision assessment and training.
“Training the eyes and improving visual skills can ultimately give people an advantage over athletes with perfect eyesight but less well-developed visual skills,” says Jacqueline. “At the same time, professional and amateur athletes can investigate their eyewear options based on sports-specific recommendations. If there are fewer people with myopia playing sport than are found in the general population, it’s only because many of them still believe that being short-sighted means they can’t play sport. That simply isn’t true.”
For more information on eye health, visual skills and therapy, or to book an appointment, visit the Smart Vision website: Optometrists Sydney: Optometry Services For Children and Adults | Smart Vision; for specific information about Myopia treatment and prevention visit Myopia Prevention: Solutions, Control And Treatment In Sydney; and for detailed information about Myopia Treatment visit Orthokeratology In Sydney: The Non Surgical Alternative.
To book an appointment for a thorough eye check-up, click here or Call the Bondi clinic on (02) 9365 5047 or the Mosman clinic on (02) 9969 1600.
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