More players in the National Football League (NFL) are using visors to protect their eyes than ever before, despite visors being optional. That’s according to new research published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Visors shield players’ eyes from injury. Tinted visors offer added protection from the sun.
About 41% of defensive players and 24% of offensive players wore visors during the 2019-2020 season, the report found. Linebackers, running backs and defensive backs were much more likely than other positions to wear a visor. The study examined all 32 teams in the NFL.
Ophthalmologists urge NFL to make visors mandatory
Sport-related eye injuries can be devastating and career-ending. Over the past five seasons, 16 NFL players sustained eye injuries ranging from eye gouges to fractures of the bone around the eyes, corneal abrasions and cuts to the eyelid, the study revealed.
Because so many players are already using visors — and because visors don’t hinder performance — the ophthalmologists who authored the study urge the NFL to take a stronger stand on visor usage.
“With increasing concerns about safety in youth football mandatory visor usage at all levels may reduce eye-related football injuries and the NFL is in a unique position to take the lead on this issue. As a first step, current and former NFL players should be involved to better understand their reasons for and against visor usage.”
Visors protect amateur and professional football players
Athletes on college, high school or community football teams should also wear visors, the authors note. Amateur leagues may not have access to the same equipment and resources that NFL players do, which could result in more significant eye injuries.
The Academy has categorized football as a sport with a moderate risk of eye injury and recommends the usage of a polycarbonate eye shield or visor for protection.