As the field of sports nutrition continues to rapidly evolve, education around eye health is at a standstill, according to Dave Ellis, a sports dietician with over thirty years of experience in the field.
“The importance eye health plays in athletic performance and where it fits into the future of sports nutrition specifically, has been totally neglected,” Ellis said.
Dr. Dennis Gierhart, the founder and scientist behind ZeaVision, maker of the EyePromise brand of eye vitamins, said that athletes should be wary of neglecting their vision, as it directly affects performance.
“Most of what an athlete reacts to is first taken in via the eye and then sent to the brain which is where most aspects of vision actually occur,” Dr. Gierhart said. “If the transfer of information from the eye to the brain can speed up, then our ability to react improves.”
With performance in mind, athletes should know that along with eye injuries and refractive errors, some of the biggest problems with vision in the sporting world can include occasional dry eye, sensitivity to light, and glare. These issues can affect performance at critical points. Additionally, these factors can take a toll on the long-term health of an athlete’s vision.
“It’s time we take that seriously,” Ellis said. “That’s (eye health) right up there with brain health.”
Whether an athlete is competing indoors or outdoors is irrelevant. Athletes who play outdoors in the sun or even at night under intense stadium lighting are putting stress on their eyes.
Light from the sun and stadium lights can affect your central vision over time.
A dense macular pigment is critical to protect the eye from not only bright light from the sun or artificial lighting, but also to harmful blue light, which we’re subjected to each day by our computers, tablets, smartphones, and florescent lighting. Blue light can enter the eye and negatively impact the visual cells responsible for central and peripheral vision.
To protect vision from these harmful lights, athletes need a thick and dense macular pigment. The macula is located in the back of the eye (in the retina) and is comprised of two nutrients – zeaxanthin and lutein. Macular pigment, aka your “internal sunglasses” plays an important role in protecting the cones and rods that reside behind the macula, which are responsible for your central vision.
Occasional Dry Eye
Forty percent of Americans suffer from occasional dry eye – a common condition in which the tear ducts make insufficient tears for lubricating and nourishing the eye. Gritty, itchy, and irritated eyes are common symptoms of occasional dry eye.
Many find that their eyes are constantly watery, and that is also a symptom of occasional dry eye, as your tears are not providing enough lubrication. Athletes who have had LASIK surgery or wear contact lenses make up a large percentage of those who suffer from occasional dry eye. Those who travel often are also subject to occasional dry eye. Inflammation is a hallmark of occasional dry eye, and reducing inflammation on the surface of the eye and regulating the glands that produce tears are essential to effectively manage occasional dry eye.
However, many athletes will resort to purchasing artificial tears that will only provide temporary relief. The problem needs to be addressed internally.
What Athlete’s Need to Protect Their Vision
It is nearly impossible to eat enough foods to obtain the amount of zeaxanthin (found in the macula) needed to protect vision. In fact, you would have to consume over 20 ears of corn per day to obtain the proper amount of zeaxanthin required.
However, zeaxanthin-based supplements like EyePromise Vizual Edge PRO, which is formulated with the highest level of zeaxanthin available, helps build a dense and healthy macular pigment to protect and enhance the quality of your vision while improving reaction time through increased visual processing speed.
For occasional dry eye relief, people are often prescribed prescription eye drops. These drops can cost hundreds of dollars, sting and take months before taking effect.
EyePromise Vizual Edge PRO also relieves occasional dry eye with natural soothing ingredients and a concentrated dose of fish oil that helps tears form naturally, providing lubrication for the eye.
Having the knowledge to protect your vision ultimately protects your career as an athlete.