GP Lenses and Sports: A Winning Combination
BY CARL KRAMER, OD, & EDWARD S. BENNETT, OD, MSED, FAAO
Clear and consistent vision is critical in most competitive sports, and spectacle wear can often be cumbersome and result in reduced acuity, restricted peripheral vision, and fogging. Soft lenses are often preferred for athletes due to their stability and comfort; however, there are certain applications for specialty GP lenses for athletes.
High Astigmatism/High Refractive Error
Patients who have significant astigmatism or who experience lens rotation issues may benefit from bitoric or scleral lenses. Higher astigmats may experience blurry or variable vision while wearing soft toric lenses due to lens rotation, decentration, or dryness. When fit properly, a bitoric lens will align well with the curvatures of the astigmatic cornea to provide a stable lens fit and consistent, crisp GP lens optics.
Athletes who have higher refractive errors are also good candidates for GPs as the lenses are customized to the individuals’ visual needs and may correct their refractive error more effectively.
Scleral and hybrid lenses are another suitable option for higher refractive errors and astigmats because the tear layer between the lens and the eye will correct patients’ corneal astigmatism. In addition, these lenses remain stable on the eye.
Dry Eye/Dry Environments
Patients who have dry eye symptoms or who play sports in dry, dusty environments may also benefit from scleral or hybrid lenses. The fluid chamber between the scleral lens and the eye can keep the eye moist and hydrated during lens wear. The complete coverage of the cornea and the sclera by the lenses can also serve to partially protect the ocular surface from wind, dust, and smaller flying debris, which can lessen the likelihood of ocular trauma and symptoms of dryness due to exposure.
Hybrid lenses can also be a good option for athletes who are adapted soft lens wearers because some patients find them more comfortable compared to corneal GP lenses.
Fast-paced sports often require quick response times and extremely detailed vision. For example, a baseball player attempting to hit a baseball requires precise visual acuity to pick up the spin and trajectory of a pitch to effectively make contact. In such cases, a scleral, hybrid, or intralimbal GP lens could potentially provide superior vision to soft contact lenses, especially in cases in which there is a low level of uncorrected astigmatism.
Many athletes who have irregular corneas can often be successful with the use of specialty lenses. Choose the lens modality based on the nature of the sport. Patients who are less likely to sustain ocular trauma during their sport may do well in an intralimbal GP lens. Patients involved in more dynamic sports may be more successful in a scleral or hybrid lens, because it is far less likely that these lenses will dislodge from the eye; however, professional athletes have been successful with intralimbal lenses when a relatively low-edge-clearance design is used in combination with a limited-lens-lag fitting relationship.
Give Athletes the Best Vision
Athletes of all ages and levels of competition benefit from achieving the highest quality of vision possible. Prescribing GP contact lenses for athletes, in particular, can mean the difference between success and failure in their given sport. CLS
Dr. Kramer is the current cornea and contact lens resident at the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry. Dr. Bennett is assistant dean for Student Services and Alumni Relations at the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry and is executive director of the GP Lens Institute. You can reach him at email@example.com.