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The sporty eye

The sporty eye
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First Published: Mon, Jul 05 2010. 08 10 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Jul 05 2010. 08 10 PM IST
When our eyes initiate almost 80% of all our physical actions, how can we afford to ignore them when we play sports? Uncorrected visual problems can have a dramatic effect on sporting ability, not just in terms of focusing but also balance, timing, glare recovery, fatigue and colour perception.
So those of us who need glasses need them not just for work but also for relaxation and play. And for almost all sports, we need protection against the sun’s glare and UV rays in particular. In my opinion, the most conservative and safe option for all-round visual health is wearing prescription sports sunglasses (you can get contact lenses for the same purpose too, but that’s the subject of a later column).  
My personal experience
I have been running for the last 25 years wearing prescription glasses and have been very comfortable with them.
Since I love my runs to be long (the longest in a day being 100km) and at times fast (my personal best for 21km is 1 hour 18 minutes), I definitely needed eye protection from the sun too. But perfect vision came first and standard sunglasses didn’t have the corrective lenses I needed. Yet I wasn’t recommended prescription sunglasses by any optometrist in India till 2003.
But in London, where I went to train and then work for a while as a sports medicine and musculoskeletal physician, it was a completely different story. For the first time, I was introduced not just to corrective sunglasses, but prescription sports sunglasses at the 20-20 Optical Store (www.20-20.co.uk), by Bethany Griffin, a friend and a very enthusiastic cyclist.
Go for prescription sunglasses
Prescription sunglasses are sunglasses that have your prescribed power. But most sunglasses are not appropriate for sports. Plus, most people have issues with even normal prescribed glasses during sports activities as they tend to slip off and have poor peripheral vision, not to mention the adjustment problems or the uncomfortable weight on the face and ears. And actually this goes for sunglasses too, whether standard or prescription. A good pair of prescription sports sunglasses, however, should address all these problems, not only aiding vision but granting protection. 
Where to go  
Unfortunately, now that I have you convinced you need these, you still have to hunt hard to find these glasses in India. I have only succeeded in finding this service at Himalaya Opticals in New Delhi. The good news, though, is that they have a presence in 19 cities across India.
And now, fittingly perhaps, the first specialized Sport Vision Clinic in India has been set up by them in Kolkata, and they are very keen to open more, I’m told (Sport Vision is an association of opticians based out of the UK that focuses specially on this need).
What to buy
First rule: Don’t compromise. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. There are only very few companies that do sports sunglasses in India, and even fewer that do prescription sports sunglasses. So don’t get talked into settling for less than all three factors: sports specific, sun protection and corrective vision.
Another very basic mistake that almost all of us make while choosing sunglasses is that we are only concerned about how good we look in them, when the question should be how well we see in them.
Check the lenses. They should be able to: (a) maintain clarity, giving a distinct and sharp image even at greater viewing distances; (b) eliminate distortion caused by magnification; and (c) eliminate light bending, so that objects appear at their true position and each eye sees the same image.
As for brands, ICS Laboratories Inc., a renowned independent laboratory in North America for testing and conformity assessment of personal protective equipment, assessed a wide array of sunglasses in 2002 and 2003. The result: Oakley (www.oakley.com) eyewear beat all competition in every performance category. Oakley are thus by far the leaders in this field and are now available in India. Haber Vision (www.habervision.com) are very good too and are available online.
Rajat Chauhan is a practitioner of sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and CEO of Back 2 Fitness.
Write to Rajat at treadmill@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Jul 05 2010. 08 10 PM IST
More Topics: Treadmill | Rajat Chauhan | Eyes | Glasses | Sports |