Share |

LASIK Eye Surgery & Laser Vision Correction for Athletes & Sports

Reviewed by Leslie Doctor, M.D.

LASIK for sports is an important consideration for those with vision correction needs who are dependent on eyeglasses and contact lens. LASIK Eye Surgery for the Laser Vision Correction of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism for amateur and professional athletes can offer many benefits in terms of comfort and performance over eyeglasses and contact lenses. However, it is important to understand the benefits as well as the considerations as well as risks of LASIK for athletes involved in various types of sports.

Benefits of LASIK for Athletes in Sports

Eyeglasses and sports participation can pose a number of annoying problems. First, eyeglasses, no matter how well designed and fit, can significantly impair peripheral vision. Limiting peripheral vision in sports such as basketball, soccer, lacrosse and football can be a considerable challenge to performance. The greater the prescription, the greater likelihood of not only a restriction of peripheral vision, but also a distortion of peripheral images. Eyeglasses would obviously be totally unsuitable for sports such as swimming and diving where the advantages of LASIK for Laser Vision Correction are obvious. One might suggest that contact lenses are a suitable method of vision correction for water sports such as swimming, diving, scuba diving and kayaking, however the possibility of contact lens contamination while being exposed to ocean or pool water suggests that wearing contact lenses for these activities may expose athletes to an unnecessary risk of infection as compared to LASIK. One might also believe that the choice of contact lenses for vision correction is the best method for runners, bicyclists, tennis players and even golfers. However, the likelihood of facial and scalp sweat, especially as it travels through the eyebrows and eyelashes, entering the eye during the exertion required of these sports may in fact pose an increased risk of infection during contact lens wear making LASIK a serious consideration for runners and bicyclists. Thus one could on and analyze virtually every sport and find that Laser Eye Surgery for Laser Vision Correction can offer benefits and advantages to most athletes involved many sports.

Considerations & Risks of LASIK for Athletes in Sports

Athletes who participate in relatively "non contact" sports such as baseball, tennis, golf, running, bicycling, swimming have minimal if any increase eye injury risk after having LASIK. Those athletes who participate in "contact sports" such as football, basketball, wrestling, boxing, kick boxing, karate, jujitsu or mixed martial arts are at higher risk of injury, as there is frequent body contact that puts their face in jeopardy. While there is little concern about the eye being weakened after LASIK surgery, there is a concern about the risk of dislodging or damaging the LASIK "flap" if during a blow to the face a finger accidentally hits the eye. While this is extremely rare, it could occur in cases where extreme force contacted the eye, particularly during the first few days following LASIK.  While the flap adheres tightly within hours after LASIK surgery, a harsh force contacting the eye could potentially put contact sport athletes at higher risk. LASIK is generally not recommended, however, for participation in these sports. The flap created during LASIK has been shown to be extremely durable but there is the concern that a violent blow could tear the flap from its location. While this isn’t likely to happen, most LASIK surgeons would choose a different type of surgery, known as PRK, for patients desiring to take part in contact sports, espeically those with a high incidence of facial contact such as boxing, kick boxing, karate, jujitsu and mixed martial arts.

PRK is very similar to LASIK. The clinical results of PRK are equally safe and effective when compared to LASIK.  Prior to the introduction of LASIK, PRK was the most popular form of Laser Vision Correction. The disadvantage of PRK is that it can require up to 1-2 weeks for full visual recovery following surgery. The advantage of PRK is that there is no flap created that could be dislodged as a result of eye trauma or contact. PRK uses the same Laser Eye Surgery procedures as LASIK, except that PRK is performed on the surface of the eye, rather than between the layers of the cornea as in LASIK. After PRK surgery, athletes who are contact sports participants can enjoy their sport of choice as would a person who did not have eye surgery with no risk of flap dislocation or dislodgement.

LASIK offers athletes many benefits, yet LASIK also has risks and certain special considerations. Not every athlete qualifies for LASIK surgery. Some athletes are recommended to seek other alternatives to correct their vision problems such as PRK because they are higher risk candidates for LASIK surgery. Athletes who are considering LASIK should schedule an examination and consultation with a LASIK surgeon where they can fully discuss their specific sport and find out if they are a good candidate for any type of Laser Eye Surgery.


©2011 The Medical Management Services Group

updated 4/27/12