Young boy playing baseball

Protective Eyewear—Do Athletes Need It?

The benefits of eyeglasses are invaluable to those who need them to see, but there is another type of eyewear that is equally important to those who need vision correction and those who don’t need vision correction alike.  Protective eyewear (also known as “safety” eyewear) is used to shield the eyes and prevent eye injury during physical activities and sports. Remember: traditional eyeglasses (non-safety) provide little protection and may actually increase injuries if they break during high impact sports.

For parents, it’s important to make sure that your young athletes are aware that there is more to eye health than remembering to wear (and take care of) their eyeglasses and/or contact lenses.  It is also important to take precautions to avoid eye injury that could cause damage to your eyes and well-being. Wearing high impact eyewear while playing high-risk sports such as lacrosse, field hockey, and even baseball, can prevent eye damage. 

Where can I buy protective eyewear?

  • Prescription protective eyewear:  your eye doctor or an optical store
  • Non-prescription protective eyewear: almost any sporting goods store

How to identify prescription protective eyewear and its impact rating:

  • Rating of “Z87-2” can be found on the inside front of the frame and on both temples (*see next bullet point down to determine whether it is basic impact or high impact)
  • The manufacturer’s trademark will appear on the actual lenses and, *if high impact, should include a “+” next to the manufacturer’s trademark

How to identify non-prescription protective eyewear and its impact rating:

  • Rating of “Z87” (basic impact) or “Z87+” (high impact) can be found on the front of frame or on one of the temples
  • Impact rating should accompany manufacturer’s trademark

For the best protection against sport’s related injury, choose from protective eyewear with a high impact rating and a padded, wrap-style frame.

Whether you or your child require vision correction or not, it is always in your best interest to utilize protective eyewear during any physical activities that pose an escalated risk of hard projectiles and close contact with sport’s equipment (such as field hockey sticks) and/or other human beings.  The American Academy of Pediatrics categorizes the risk of eye injury to the unshielded eyes of an athlete as high risk (i.e. baseball), moderate risk (i.e. fishing), low risk (i.e. diving), and eye safe (i.e. gymnastics). Visit their website at to learn more.