Footballers Wearing Contact Lenses: Deep Dive

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To be a professional footballer, it takes a huge amount of natural skill, natural athleticism and quick thinking; but what about vision? In football, vision contributes to the ability to make quick decisions, being aware of the surroundings, including opponents and players. Being able to make the best decision in a split second is something that separates good players and the best elite players. For this, vision is essential, and poor vision would seriously impact the ability for players to do this. We will be taking a look around why and who are the footballers wearing contact lenses.

Having an optimal, and near perfect level of vision without glasses or contact lenses is referred to as 20/20 vision. However, it is estimated that only 35% of adults have this level of vision, so of course many footballers would have a lower than optimal level of vision. The aforementioned is why, nowadays, you can find many footballers wearing contact lenses. 

Glasses vs Contact Lenses for Footballers 

Glasses and contact lenses allow vision to be improved to 20/20 level, but you rarely see players wearing glasses or sports goggles. This is because glasses and goggles cause blind spots in vision where the lenses sit on the nose and around the eyes. Footballers are constantly having to look around them, and the frames from glasses would distract the player and make their peripheral vision less accurate.  

Glasses also provide a safety hazard. Having a plastic rim that sits on the nose and around the head can cause injuries if knocked and bumped. If a player makes contact with their arm or elbow during an aerial dual with a player with glasses, the plastic rims are more likely to cause cuts and bruises on the players face.

Not to mention the glass lenses which would be a major hazard if smashed, of which would be a high risk in a game of football. This is even the case with sports goggles which are more robust, but still carry a risk of breaking, especially in a sport which is high in contact and involves using the head to make contact with the ball.  

Why are Footballers wearing Contact Lenses? 

Firstly, contact lenses provide better vision. Lenses are round and sit completely over the eye, meaning vision in every direction is unimpaired. Glasses sit at a further distance from the eye, meaning vision is not corrected as accurately. Glasses can steam up in certain conditions and are more likely to have smears on the lenses and be unclean. The same specs can also be affected by reflections in sunny conditions. Even when lenses are built specially to be anti-glare, there is still an element of glare and reflection which isn’t present in lenses.  

Footballers wear contact lenses also because they are more robust, do not often need adjusting, and are very unlikely to become damaged during a match. It may seem like having a foreign object in the eye during an intense, high contact sport can be potentially dangerous, however it is actually not very dangerous at all, and it is extremely unlikely that contact lenses would cause harm to a player. 

There are 2 main types of contact lenses: rigid and soft. It is recommended that footballers where soft lenses as they are more suitable for movement and less likely to become dislodged. Soft lenses are also less dangerous when it comes to causing damage to the eye. If a ball or any object was to hit a player in the eye while wearing soft contact lenses, it is very unlikely that it would break or splinter.

It is also impossible for contact lenses to go behind the eye, and very unlikely to get lodge in the eye in a place where it cannot be retried easily. The worst thing that is likely to happen to a footballer wearing contact lenses is that the lens becomes dislodged slightly or falls out of the eye 

Downside of Footballers wearing Contact Lenses 

This brings us to the possible downsides of footballers wearing contact lenses. There is a small chance that the lens can fall out of the players eye. When this happens, it would be almost impossible to find the lens again as they are completely see-through. If this happened during a game, it would affect the players vision so much that they would have to sort the problem immediately by replacing the lens. It would be wise for football clubs and medical staff to ensure they have ready replacements for the players who wear contact lenses.  

Another negative is that contact lenses can be a hassle. Footballers wearing contact lenses will either have daily disposable lenses or monthly lenses. For daily lenses, footballers wearing contact lenses must remember to bring multiple pairs with them when they travel overnight, as these lenses have to be disposed after every use.

Players most likely use these types of contact lenses as there is less risk of infection as they are disposed of. Monthly lenses have to be cleaned and disinfected after every use, which can also be inconvenient. There is a chance that they are not cleaned properly which can lead to infections, and they are also more expensive to replace if they are lost or damaged. However, this is unlikely to be an issue for a professional footballer!  

Lastly, footballers wearing contact lenses may struggle to put them in or have sensitive eyes. This is a common issue for people who start wearing lenses, however most people quickly get used to the feeling. Players would be urged to use lenses if required, so even if they don’t like them, it could affect their career if they didn’t.  

Football Players wearing Contact Lenses

  • David De Gea

The Manchester United goalkeeper requires contact lenses for his long-sightedness. Sharp vision is probably most important to goalkeepers compared to any other position on the pitch. His vision certainly hasn’t stopped him become one of the best goalkeepers in the game 

  • Cristiano Ronaldo

One of the greatest players of all time uses contact lenses to correct his vision. Around 20% of his goals have been headers, showing that contact lenses are suitable and safe even for when the ball makes contact with the head very close to the eyes.  

  • Paul Scholes

The former legendary midfielders used lenses to correct his vision. Scholes was known for his playmaking abilities and passing from the middle of the pitch. Along with goalkeepers, good vision in this position is essential to know exactly where your teammates are, gauge how much time you have on the ball, and also to make the best decisions with both long- and short-range passes 

 

Exceptions & Alternatives 

Of course, when talking about footballers wearing contact lenses, there is one obvious exception. That is Edgar Davids. The Dutch midfield maestro was famous for his sports goggles that he donned in matches, mainly because he was the only elite player to do so. Davids was unable to wear contact lenses because they did not provide the protection of the eye that he required. That was because he had had surgery on his right eye after developing glaucoma.

He was actually extremely fortunate that the surgery was a complete success, as it looked as if his vision would be permanently impaired. However, his eyes were weak and any significant blow to the eye could have resulted in serious problems. For this reason, he wore the elastic goggles which provided safety without compromising peripheral vision too much.

Another alternative is laser-eye surgery. This corrects poor vision without the need for contact lenses or glasses. Years ago, this procedure was considered risky, as it could lead to damaging the eyes or blindness if it went badly. However, this treatment is now considered a lot safer, especially for elite athletes who can afford specialist treatment with the best eye doctors. 

Importance of Good Vision in Football

The importance of optimal vision in football should not be underestimated. In a premier league game in 1996, Manchester United famously donned a grey away kit against Southampton. However, after half time, they appeared from the changing rooms in a completely different colour strip. This was all to do with the issue of players’ vision on the pitch

Manchester United had hired a vision specialist who focused on the importance of player vision on the pitch. She concluded that players who come back after injury who don’t perform well, don’t look very sharp, or make a lot of mistakes, is not because they are unfit, out of practice with the ball or tactical understanding. Instead, she theorised that their vision was out of practice.

In other words, it takes time to get into the habit of constantly looking around, and players have to play the game for a long time before their vision is familiar with the speed of the game. Bright colours help with vision on the pitch, which is why the grey kit was ditched at half time for a brighter colour. You can see from this how much more difficult it would be if a player’s vision was slightly blurry, or not up to the optimal 20/20 standard.  

Conclusion

Overall, it is completely safe and common for footballers to wear contact lenses. Glasses and sports goggles do not provide the same level of vision and can be less safe as well as less comfortable. In the modern game, footballers like to look good and be fashionable while playing, and wearing glasses or sports goggles is not always the best look.

The only thing footballers wearing contact lenses need to ensure is that they or the medical team always have spares in case of them getting knocked out during a match. To play at the elite level, 20/20 vision is required, so footballers wear contact lenses to have optimal vision in the safest and easiest way. 

Here are Some of our Favourite Football/Soccer Cleats

Here we will be giving more of an opinion, rather than facts. Are the cleats worth the price that they are being sold at? Should you upgrade from your current cleats, depending on what boots you own? What features stand out in these cleats? If any. Does it do the job? Speed, control, stability etc. Depending on your needs/preferences. We can also mention its durability, if we have collected enough data on the specific cleats.

What did we expect vs. what we got. Is it maybe overrated/underrated?

Elite

Here’s our pick from the very best of the bunch.

Pro

On your way to the pro leagues? Here’s our pick.

Academy

Want something to start with? Have a look at our pick.

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