Winter Sports Eye Safety

Remembering to protect your eyes while participating in winter sports is very important. The proper eyewear can protect the eyes from sun damage as well as objects that might scratch or damage the eye. If you, a friend, or family member enjoy winter sports, here is what you need to know about winter sports eye safety.

#1: Always wear sunglasses.  The air temperature may be low, but the sun is still hot and can damage your eyes. Without proper protection you can suffer from snow blindness, which is like a sunburn for the eyes. In addition, long exposure to the winter sun can increase your risk of cataracts and growths on the eye, including those that may be cancerous. If you ski at high altitudes, the American Academy of Ophthalmology(AAO) says it is even more important to wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.

#2: Purchase the right goggles. The AAO recommends buying goggles with 100 percent UV protection to protect the eyes from sunlight and glare off the snow. The best goggles should also offer other features including:

  • Anti-fog coating and/or vents to ensure clear visibility through the lenses
  • The ability to fit over prescription glasses
  • Spherical lenses: These are better then cylindrical lenses which only curve horizontally over the eye. Spherical lenses curve left to right across the eye but also curve vertically between the nose and the forehead. These lenses have less distortion, less glare and better peripheral vision.
  • Polarized lenses: They protect the eyes further from glare
  • Colored lenses filter the sunlight.They are rated by the amount of light that reaches the eye, called visible light transmission (VLT). According to the sports company, REI, different colored lenses let various amounts of light through the google lens:
    • Yellow, gold, amber, green or rose-colored lenses offer increased VLT and perform well on cloudy, socked-in days
    • Darker tintslike brown, gray, and copper colored lenses offer reduced VLT and thus excel on days with blue sky
    • Clear lenses arebest for night skiing

#3: Buy eye protection suitable for your sport. When it comes to protective eye gear, the standards for protection are set by ASTM International. Look for ASTM ratings before you buy any eye protection. Here are some examples of ASTM ratings for winter sports gear:

  • ASTM F513: Eye and face protective equipment for hockey players;
  • ASTM F1587: Head and face protective equipment for ice hockey goaltenders;
  • ASTM F659: High-impact resistant eye protective devices for Alpine skiing.

#4: Help your eyes by staying hydrated. The cold winter air can dry out your eyes. The more water you drink, the more your body benefits, including your eyes. It may also help to have humidifier in your home to prevent the inside air from becoming increasingly dry when the outside air is cold.

Sports safety includes eye safety during any season of the year. Protecting your eyes against the elements like the sun and wind, and obstacles like tree branches and debris, is essential to protecting your eyesight. Make sure that you and your family are well prepared to enjoy the outdoors safely.

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