Athletes need sports eyewear to protect against injury. It might help their game, too.

If your main form of athletic activity is walking around the neighborhood, you do not need specially designed protective eyewear.

For many of the rest of the 20% of Americans who regularly engage in athletic activity and exercise, protective goggles can prevent serious injury, including blindness.

According to the National Eye Institute, an office of the National Institutes of Health, three sports account for the highest number of eye injuries seen in emergency rooms. Playing with air guns might seem like a logical culprit. But it is number 3. Basketball and baseball are numbers 1 and 2 in this unfortunate scorebook.

A thumb in the eye while scrumming under a basket can result in a detached retina, for instance. Without protection designed specifically for your eyes, avoiding such injuries can be impossible, given the speed of the action.

Prevention is simple

You can protect your eyes (or those of your children) with sports goggles that not only prevent injury but also fit better and provide a wider field of vision than regular glasses while you run up a court, dive for a ball or otherwise engage in fast-moving sports that present ever-changing conditions.

Some athletes, like swimmers and people who snow ski, are accustomed to wearing special eye protection to guard against chlorine, bright sun, and other elements. But probably everyone who plays an active sport (sorry, golf) should wear some sort of sports eyewear.

Such equipment is not limited to off-the-shelf goggles. Sports eyewear can be fitted with prescription lenses that may enhance a player’s reaction times with improved vision, even compared with regular glasses. That’s because, when properly crafted, sports eyewear offers larger lenses with greater peripheral vision.

Added safety factors

The lenses of sports glasses are always made of polycarbonate, the strongest material available, which protects the eye against fingers, elbows and balls traveling at as much as 90 mph.

The arms of sports eyewear are longer and grip the side of the head for “occipital fit” that comfortably grasps the head to stay on even during fast and rough play. The lens frame, which may be made of polycarbonate as well, is fitted with rubber cushioning around the nose and face.

For outdoor activities, lenses can be treated with the same coatings as regular sunglasses, including photochromatic tinting that darkens in brighter light to protect against glare and ultraviolet light. Coatings can also include those that repel water or fingerprints.

In addition, today’s sports eyewear is fashionable, coming in many styles and colors, so there is no need for any athlete to feel self-conscious.

To ensure the perfect fit, an optician will help you choose the right frame for your sport and customize it to your specific vision needs. The optician will ask questions about which position you play and may even take you on the field or court to analyze your movement and determine how well you see while moving and engaging other players.

At the Optical Shop of Westport, we will help you find the perfect sports eyewear for every athlete. Stop in at 420 Post Road West or call or email at 203-222-7870; 413-384-6492 (after hours); and