Royal College of Ophthalmologists Guidelines (Focus)

Eye Protection in Racket Sports

Ophthalmologists in the UK have for many years been aware of the steady trickle of severe eye injuries in sport, and (especially in racket sports) have been frustrated by the inability to make firm recommendations on eye protection to those patients who should use it. Whilst players of racket sports should use eye protection routinely, some ophthalmic patients are at special risk. These include the one-eyed and those with low acuity or significant field loss (which increase the risk of injury) and those with pre-existing conditions which exacerbate the severity of an injury should it occur (such as high myopia, previous intraocular or corneal refractive surgery or predisposing retinal degeneration). 

Recently, for the first time, a British Standard for eye protection in squash has been published (BS 7930:1). In formulating this Standard, careful consideration was given to the Standards already published in the USA (ASTM F803), Canada (CSA P400) and Australasia (A/NZS 4066). The introduction of these standards, in producing clear guidelines on quality of manufacture, has together with new legislation, undoubtedly contributed substantially to eye safety in these countries. However, the new British Standard has some additional features. Protectors are tested at 4 points using a squash ball with an impact velocity of 40m/s. Protectors designed for wearing over normal spectacles (visors) are not permitted. No matter how good these visors, the quality and integrity of the spectacles worn underneath could not be standardised and could themselves cause an injury.

Following the introduction of the new standard, considerable interest has been generated amongst UK manufacturers; to date some 15 protectors have passed the relevant tests and are permitted to display BS 7930:1. They are listed in the Table, and some are illustrated. It is anticipated that this list will continue to expand. All can be safely recommended for use in squash.

BS 7930:1 permits the use of prescription lenses, but in practice most manufacturers choose only to make plano protectors (especially when making one-piece protectors). Those protectors which can be supplied with prescription lenses are shown in the Table. As an alternative, many sporting ametropes choose to wear contact lenses, and can safely do so underneath plano protectors.

Potential users and their ophthalmologist advisers should beware of the possibility of misleading use, or frank abuse of irrelevant Standards when purchasing protectors. In the past, manufacturers have sold eye protectors clearly labelled for use in sport, bearing the old BS 2092 (industrial eye protection) Standard which provides completely inadequate impact protection. More recently, a very well-known manufacturer placed on sale a "protector" labelled specifically for squash, bearing the European Standard EN 1836. This is an optical quality Standard for sunglasses and has no relevance to impact protection. Whilst such misleading advertising will be pursued ruthlessly once identified, ophthalmologists are asked to ensure, if recommending specific protectors, that they are appropriate for their function, and are asked to issue specific warnings to potential users that they check the validity of any labelling. If there is doubt about a particular protector, advice may be sought from the Squash Rackets Association on 0181 746 1616.

In due course British Standards for other racket sports will follow. Although specific testing has not yet been performed, it is highly likely that the current BS 7930:1 (squash) will also prove adequate for racketball and badminton, and is likely to provide significant protection in tennis. It is however unlikely that sufficient protection would be provided for the very high impacts possible in rackets and real tennis. Unfortunately it is not possible to manufacture a realistic protectors which can provide comprehensive protection against racket impact in any of these sports.

The Squash Rackets Association are now able to push forward with eye protection in the knowledge that high-quality eye protectors are becoming more widely available. Eye protection is now mandatory in doubles squash and in some specified SRA major junior events. Further legislation for juniors is likely to follow. As these measures take effect we hope to witness a substantial and sustained reduction in eye injuries.

Nicholas P Jones
BSI Committee PS/2/9 (Eye Protection in Sport)
Honorary Medical Advisor
Squash Rackets Association

Table. These protectors meet British Standard BS 7030:1. Further protectors may meet these criteria in due course.
Manufacturer  Distributor  Protector 
Prince  Prince stockists
01539 724740
Dunlop  Dunlop stockists or
Kingswood Leisure Services
01268 491700
Squash Eyewear 
Leader Industries  Inland UK Limited
0181 863 9248 or

Apollo Leisure Sports Supplies Ltd.
01202 396610

Vision 2
New Yorker
Unique Sports Products Ltd  Original Sports
01268 543345
Super Specs
Great Specs
Squash Design - IX  TIB Trading
01706 718701
Norville Optical Co. Ltd Norville Help Line
01452 318116
Rec Specs*
Junior Rec Specs*
IX Power Pro*

* can be fitted prescription lenses

FOCUS published by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists
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