A question often asked at all levels of squash is whether it is necessary to wear protective goggles for the eyes while playing this sport. There are pros and cons associated with both sides of the story and that is exactly what we will delve into in this piece.
Let’s start with what we believe should be done with respect to this situation. That is…
Should a Squash Player Wear Protective Eye-Wearing While Playing?
Ask most people associated with squash and the straightforward answer to this question is yes, it’s quite important to use protective eye-wear while playing squash despite all the negatives associated with it.
This is a lot more vital at the beginner level when one is learning the nuances of the sport than at the highest level where players are more used to the pace and bounce and the element of surprise is typically missing.
However, even with hundreds of hours of playing experience, freak injuries and accidents do happen and could threaten to derail if not end a squash player’s career if a protective eye equipment isn’t worn. In short, given the injury risk to the eye associated with squash it makes very little sense for a player to not opt for protection.
Let’s drill deeper into this topic…
Why should Squash Players Wear Protective Eye-Wear?
It’s interesting some of the players at a fairly seriously competitive who had probably never worn goggles, have begun to use them towards the latter part of their careers or even in their coaching careers.
It’s easy to put this down to more media exposure allowing trickling of stories of player-eyes getting injured while playing squash. Also, with time, the quality of goggles has improved which has taken some of the cons associated with wearing some kind of protective eye-wear.
There are two main reasons why squash players should use some kind of goggles for their eyes; protection from an errant ball, and that from the squash racket.
Eye Protection from the Ball
There was an interesting discussion we had while writing about the different types of squash balls used at different levels of play. Beginners, or amateurs use squash balls which are typically bouncier and the nature of play is quicker.
This is done to ensure that even at the most amateur level, players are able to hold rallies because the balls used by professionals typically don’t bounce too much unless warmed up and make it tougher to do so.
However, with that extra bounce comes the risk of the squash ball coming close to the face and eyes.
There’s also the unpredictability factor associated with the ball bouncing off the corner at speed.
And the third reason why a ball could come at a nasty speed and angle at one’s face is body serves. Body serves might be frowned up by the squash purists but they are a very legitimate part of the game and if one isn’t very cautious, could hit the face again.
Eye Protection from Racket
While most times eye injuries in the sport of squash are associated with the quick-moving squash ball, it is not uncommon for rackets to play an equally destructive role. Unlike a lot of other racket sports, squash is played with both players on the side of the wall.
In some cases, we are looking at four players sharing that space inside the squash court, the chances of getting hit by a racket are quite high.
Lot of the times, these injuries are caused when a player is standing too close to his/her opponent and the opponent’s racket’s backswing catches the eye.
Have Professional Squash Players Suffered Eye Injuries?
Yes, as unfortunate as it sounds, even professional squash players have been at the receiving end of freak eye injuries during a game of squash.
One of them is Britain’s Daryl Selby who was once a world number nine and the winner of the 2011 British National Squash Championships. Selby wasn’t wearing any protective equipment for the eye and was accidentally hit by the ball after his opponent Ollie Pett tried to play an unusual shot from behind his back.
So I got hit in the eye with a squash ball yesterday, completely accidentally, hence why I was wearing eyewear to play today. Will do a little video about my thoughts very soon. Big congrats to George for the win today, played well and was too good for me @NationalsSquash pic.twitter.com/yyrNI1HjBZ
— Daryl Selby (@DarylSelby) February 14, 2020
If you are looking for an example of a squash injury caused by the backswing of the racket, look no further than what happened to Jonathon Power, a former world number one from Canada. If the video below isn’t a prescription for wearing protective eye-gear, not sure what would be.
Kind of Eye Injuries in Squash
- If you are lucky, you could suffer from the kind of injury Daryl Selby did as mentioned above. He was hit on his eye by the ball but medical scans showed he had internal bruising on his eye no other major damage or a detached retina.
- Not everyone is that lucky though. Eye injuries are very common in squash and a lot of them are career-threatening at best and can cause permanent eye damage as well.
- This includes conditions like internal bleeding in the eye which could lead to long-term damage, a torn iris which could lead to a reduction in focus, retina damage which could lead to reduced vision on a long-term basis and orbital fractures which can be caused because of a bone break around the eyeball causing permanent damage to the vision at times.
Why do Squash Players Avoid Wearing Goggles?
The most straightforward answer to this is the discomfort associated with wearing any kind of eye-wear while playing squash. It becomes just that little bit harder to spot the ball with something on your face and add the fact the sweat which could get on to the glasses, players at the professional level avoid wearing eye-wear during matches.
The way to overcome the issue with sweat is very simply to use a headband, a tactic sportspeople use across multiple sports. If you are one of those who isn’t using a protective eye-gear because you don’t want to use a headband for whatever reason, then that’s really sad because you are not just exposing yourself to an injury, you are also setting a hazardous precedence for others to follow.
In current times, it is becoming more and more mandatory for juniors to wear the protective glasses but those who are playing at the highest level right now did not have that kind of a mandate.
As a result, if one is used to playing the sport well with glasses, it makes very little sense for them to make changes to that practice at such a later stage of their careers.
There’s another interesting take on this issue.
The fogging of these goggles because of the sweat. The chances of getting injured would be that much more in case of a player unable to spot the ball because of the fogging.
Some might argue to keep wiping the condensation off the goggles but for starters it’s very inconvenient and secondly the glasses could still fog up during a rally.
What Should I Do if I Already Wear Prescription Glasses?
While some might reckon wearing optical glasses might protect their eyes, that comes with its own danger. The glass used in such spectacles might be prone to breaking too and causing as much harm.
There have been instances of an opponent’s racket’s follow-through smashing through such prescription glasses, leading to eye injuries.
This is why if a player already wears prescription glasses, it makes even more sense to use protective eye-gear or visors over those. There are specially-made glasses in such cases but you need to speak to your optician to ensure your vision isn’t impaired.
One other option is to use iMask. While iMask can be worn by players without prescription glasses too, it’s an even better option for bespectacled players who are looking for protection.
What is an iMask?
Unlike normal protective eye-wear, an iMask doesn’t have two different sections for the two eyes but it wraps the entire face with one, single, plain glass thereby increasing visibility. It’s more of a face shield than your typical protective eye-goggles.
iMask is used by professionals at the highest level of squash. Below is a video of a pair of players using the same during a match.
Here’re the benefits associated with a visor like iMask
- iMask offers an excellent alternative to protective eye-wear as it eliminates fogging
- Two other solid features include eradication of nose discomfort and restricted peripheral vision.
- Player with prescription glasses can use them over their spectacles
- The lack of a frame ensures better peripheral vision than other protective gear
- They are quite light
- Players can customize it to suit their requirements
- Individual parts of the visor can be replaced in case of any issues
While it’s understandable the use of protective eye-wear makes for an uncomfortable first few times for squash players for a variety of reasons, there have been enough number of instances at various levels of play of eye and face injuries which should prove to be deterrent. Always use protective gear in the form of goggles or visors or run a serious risk of career-ending injuries or even worse.