If you play sports or lead an active lifestyle, we know eyeglasses and contacts can be a nuisance. For contact sports, high-impact workouts, or rugged outdoor activities, glasses are particularly likely to get in the way. From broken lenses, to frames that just won’t stay in place, glasses can pose a number of inconveniences that can hinder your performance. While contacts are a better alternative in some cases, they’re not ideal for watersports or activities that generate a lot of sweat. Plus, a lost contact is impossible to find or replace on the field.

Though protective eye gear is important for maintaining your long-term vision, eye surgery may be an attractive alternative to glasses and contact lenses if you’re an athlete — but is it safe? Let’s take a look.

LASIK for Athletes: What You Should Know

LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. In this procedure, our surgeons correct refractive errors in the eye that cause issues like nearsightedness and farsightedness. We do so through precise and controlled removal of tissue to reshape the cornea using a laser. In LASIK, a flap is made in the stroma, the middle layer of the cornea, and then folded back over after the cornea is reshaped.

In general, LASIK is considered a safe surgery and is one of the most heavily studied elective procedures to date. The rate of complications is below one percent, and more than 20 million LASIK procedures have been performed within the last two decades. As with any procedure, however, there are some risks involved.

One risk in particular is potential damage to the corneal flap. Because flaps created during the procedure aren’t secured by sutures or any other means, it’s critical that you avoid rubbing your eyes during the healing process. There’s also a slight risk of dislodging the flap, even long after the surgery has been performed, if the eye sustains trauma. For this reason, LASIK wasn’t originally recommended for people who face an increased risk of being struck in the eye, including those who play contact sports, or are in the military or law enforcement. Nonetheless, data has shown that the risk of injury related to LASIK is still very low.

Eye Consultants of Atlanta doctors are often consultants to local professional sports teams, and our current recommendation for football players that have had LASIK is to wear a shield incorporated with the mask. This action has been approved by the NFL.

Is There an Alternative to LASIK for Athletes?

Our team can discuss with you the pros and cons of eye surgery to help determine the best solution for your lifestyle. If it’s determined that you may not be an ideal candidate for LASIK, there may still be other options to consider.

One in particular is Anterior Surface Ablation, also known as PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy. This procedure achieves the same outcomes as LASIK, but doesn’t involve the flap technique. Instead, the top layer of the cornea, known as the epithelium, is surgically scraped away. A laser is then used to reshape the cornea.

While PRK may be considered safer for anyone with a heightened risk of eye injury, it’s important to note that the procedure will leave you sidelined longer than LASIK would. The flap method used in LASIK enables much quicker healing, whereas PRK requires a special bandage (similar to a contact lens) to be worn for several days. A full recovery and desired results may take up to a month to achieve, versus just a few days with LASIK. 

We’re big supporters of active lifestyles for all our patients, as exercise also benefits your vision. No matter your level of physical activity, the award-winning doctors here at Eye Consultants of Atlanta can recommend the best solution based on your unique needs and lifestyle. Schedule a LASIK evaluation here or by calling 404-351-2020.