By Dr. Alan M. Berman
Ridgefield Family Eyecare
When fitting an athlete with contact lenses, many factors have to be taken into consideration. Athletes have a different set of circumstances regarding their performance. One has to look at the playing environment that they are in, the visual characteristics of the sport, the specific playing position, and the individual physiological characteristics of the eye (tear quality, lid position, prescription, etc.).
One also has to look at the various environmental factors that can affect lens wear: wind, dust, sun, UV radiation, oxygen requirements, humidity, and temperature to name a few. No one lens may satisfy all of these demands, but one has to find a lens that can deal with as many of these concerns as possible and decide which contact lens is best. Hybrid lenses address most of these issues.
Generally, gas permeable lenses are not recommended for sports. Lens movement, lens awareness, debris getting under the lens, and chair time are factors to be considered. Fortunately, hybrid lens designs are available that gives the vision of a gas permeable lens, but the comfort of a soft lens. It’s the best of both worlds.
SynergEyes offers a number of lens designs and materials that give great visual acuity and eye health. These lenses give excellent visual acuity due to the aspheric design, but in addition, they also give enhanced contrast sensitivity (i.e. the ability to see the white ball against the blue sky), which I feel is critical in many sports.
Their Duette line of lenses offer a hyper-dk RGP center, with a silicone hydrogel skirt. In addition, it offers UV blocking characteristics, which is extremely important for protecting athletes’ eyes. As a side note, a contact lens with UV protection is not a replacement for wearing proper sunglass protection out on the field. It is an additional layer of protection, not a replacement for it.
The soft skirt minimizes lens movement and prevents dust and dirt from getting under the lens, so comfort is not an issue. This allows the athlete to concentrate on the game. What’s also nice, chair time is not a factor. These lenses are fit empirically. So for the busy athlete (and doctor), this is a significant advantage.
Competitive athletes will do whatever it takes to excel in their sport. Vision and visual skills (tracking, eye-body coordination, peripheral reflexes, etc.) are a very critical component to their performance. Contact lenses are an integral part of this and can give the athlete a competitive edge.
Dr. Alan M. Berman is a partner in Ridgefield Family Eye Care as well as the Co-Director of the Institute for Sports Vision in Ridgefield, CT. He is a member of the American Optometric Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, the Sports Vision and Contact Lens Section of the American Optometric Association, and the Connecticut Association of Optometrists. He is also a former President of the International Academy of Sports Vision. Dr. Berman is the founder and present co-chairman of the Vision Management Group, a national think tank and study group of optometric practitioners.