Should You Wear Contacts or Glasses for Sports?

6 sources cited
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Are Contacts or Glasses Better for Sports?

Many people wear contacts or glasses.

Over 4 million Americans aged 40 years or older have low vision or are legally blind. Many of them are athletes.4

Athletes need contacts or glasses for several common eye conditions:4

  • Refractive errors like myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism (poor vision at all distances)
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)

If you’re an athlete, you may wonder whether contact lenses or glasses are the better options.  You need to be able to see clearly, especially when playing sports

Whether contacts or glasses are better for sports depends on the sport and the person. Some sports require you to wear contact lenses or sport-specific eyewear other than glasses. In other sports, you may be able to wear your glasses.

Some of the advantages of wearing contact lenses over glasses include the following:

  • Increased peripheral vision
  • Unobstructed vision
  • Less likelihood of fogging up or breaking
  • Decreased chance of causing injury
  • Fit better with sports safety equipment

Where to Buy Glasses + Contacts

Best Overall: Warby Parker

Fastest Delivery: EyeBuyDirect

Also Great: Liingo

Best Place to Buy Contacts: 1800 Contacts

Can Contacts Fall Out During Sports?

You shouldn’t wear glasses for all types of sports. In contact sports, for example, glasses can get damaged. 

But wearing contacts can be risky, too. Contacts can become dislodged and fall out during sports. They can also slide out of place and cause irritation.

You shouldn’t wear contacts in some activities, like water sports, 

Can I Wear Contacts for Water Sports?

You should not wear contacts during water sports. It is not considered safe to wear contacts while swimming.

You risk getting an eye infection from bacteria in water. Water can be a source of microorganisms. This includes pool water, hot tubs, the ocean, lakes, and other bodies of water.1, 2

If you are a regular swimmer, you should consider investing in prescription goggles instead.

Prescription Goggles for Water Sports

Prescription goggles aim to improve clarity and comfort while swimming.6

Prescription goggles have specific lenses so you can see clearly while swimming in the pool, ocean, or elsewhere. That’s why many swimmers and triathletes use prescription goggles.

Many major retailers like Speedo sell prescription goggles with prescription lenses that range from about -1.5 to -8.0. Talk to your doctor about which prescription goggles are right for you.

Can I Play Sports With Glasses?

You can play some sports with glasses. This includes the following non-contact sports:

  • Tennis
  • Squash
  • Cycling
  • Golf

While playing any sports, even non-contact sports, you risk breaking your glasses. For example, a tennis ball can hit your glasses, or you can fall off your bicycle. This can cause injury, especially if your glasses shatter.

Instead of wearing your everyday glasses, consider wearing sport-specific glasses. Prescription glasses that are made for sports have optimal protection. Some come with straps, so if they fall off, they’ll still be wrapped around your neck.

There are plenty of prescription glasses options for outdoor sports, too. Some prescription sunglasses help shield your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays while you're playing sports. 

Eye Injuries and Sports

Glasses and contacts can be dangerous during sports. If you break your glasses while they’re on your face, you risk getting glass in your eyes. 

Contacts can become dislodged and scratch or irritate your eyes. 

About 13,500 of the more than 70,000 children who go to the emergency room each year for injuries or complications from medical devices go because of a problem with their contacts.3

If you lose your glasses or contacts while playing sports, you’re at a higher risk of injury because your vision is impaired.

Risks of Wearing Contacts for Sports

Wearing contacts during sports comes with risks:

  • Contacts can fall out
  • They can slide out of place
  • Contacts can scratch your eyes
  • Trapped debris can cause contact lenses to irritate your eyes

During water sports, you also risk infections and corneal ulcers from the water trapped in your contacts. These can lead to vision loss if left untreated.

You should remove your contact lenses if you’re experiencing pain or irritation.5

Types of Contacts for Sports

There are various types of contact lenses from which to choose, but there are no specific contacts for when you play sports. 

That said, soft lenses are generally considered the best option for playing sports. They tend to move less than rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses, making them less likely to fall out.

Summary

Whether you choose to wear contacts or glasses is up to you. During some sports, contacts are a safer choice. You can explore alternative options, such as prescription sports goggles, for other sports like swimming.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to have eyewear that protects your eyes and helps you see clearly. Vision correction is essential while playing sports.

Talk to your eye doctor about the best contact lenses or eyeglasses.

Be sure to shop around, not just for the right prescription for your glasses or contacts but also the right fit. Being comfortable while playing sports is important, too. Frames that fit properly are key to your vision, health, and sports performance.

Best Places to Buy Contacts

Best Overall

1-800 Contacts is our #1 recommendation to buy contacts online.

Also Great
glasses usa logo

GlassesUSA has a huge selection of contacts, glasses, & sunglasses.

Best Places to Buy Glasses

Best Overall

Warby Parker has stylish, high-quality frames at affordable prices.

Also Great

Liingo Eyewear is another great option to buy glasses online.

Best on a Budget

EyeBuyDirect has a wide variety of budget frames starting at $6.

6 Cited Research Articles
  1. Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Everyday Eye Care.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.
  2. Commissioner, Office of the. “Focusing on Contact Lens Safety.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.
  3. Commissioner, Office of the. “What to Know If Your Child Wants Contact Lenses.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.
  4. Common Eye Disorders and Diseases.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 June 2020.
  5. Contact Lenses Classified as Medical Devices by the FDA.” Prevent Blindness, 1 Aug. 2022.
  6. Prescription Swimming Goggles.” Speedo UK.
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