Contact Lens Case Reports

Tinted Lenses for Athletes

Contact Lens Case Reports

Tinted Lenses for Athletes


From time to time, athletes present interested in any spectacle or contact lens modality that might enhance their visual performance. When we discuss visual performance with our patient athletes, we highlight two visual functions. The first is focus, which is the refractive state of the eyes that we achieve through appropriate glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery.

The second is the quality and quantity of the light entering the eye, which is best enhanced through a variety of tints. The human visual spectrum ranges from 380µm to 760µm. For many years, we in the eyecare field have used tints to manipulate specific frequencies to enhance visual performance. At Pacific University, we call this process “light architecture.”

Athletic Tints in the Market

Athletic tints made their first appearance in contact lenses back in the days of PMMA lenses. An early commercially available GP lens was the gray-tinted SportSight GP from Paragon Vision Sciences in 2003 (Figure 1). This 30-Dk material lens could be custom manufactured in any base curve, power, or diameter. It was designed exclusively for high-luminance environments and functioned like gray-tinted sunglasses.

Figure 1. The SportSight GP lens.

In 2005, Nike, in conjunction with Bausch + Lomb, released the MaxSight sports vision soft lens in two tints (Figure 2). The grey-green tint was marketed for sports requiring acute contour recognition, such as golf, water sports, bicycling, and running. The amber tint was intended for sports that require acute object recognition, such as baseball, cricket, tennis, soccer, and hockey.

Figure 2. The MaxSight amber and grey-green tints.

The MaxSight lenses had only limited commercial success and were withdrawn from the market in 2007. We believe that their demise was due to several factors:

1) The lenses were available only in a two-week, planned replacement modality and not in a daily disposable modality.

2) The lens came in only one base curve (8.7mm) and one diameter (14.0mm), which was often too flat (and unstable) for many of our athletes.

3) The tint covered the entire lens from edge to edge, resulting in significant cosmetic issues.

4) Poor practitioner and consumer marketing of the product by both companies.

A Case for Sports Tints

The commercial failure of the MaxSight lenses is not reflective of patient interest in sports vision contact lenses. Our case this month involves a 22-year-old female semi-professional tennis player who presented to our clinic interested in tinted soft lenses for better object (ball) recognition. She was a –2.25D myope and therefore required the lenses for both focus and light architecture.

We ultimately fitted a custom-tinted “MaxSight equivalent” amber/orange lens from one of our custom tinting laboratories. Today, she credits much of her recent athletic success to her tinted soft lenses. CLS

Patrick Caroline is an associate professor of optometry at Pacific University. He is also a consultant to Contamac. Mark André is an associate professor of optometry at Pacific University. He is also a consultant to CooperVision.