Keratoconus Athletes

Does keratoconus mean the end of your career as an athlete? Absolutely not!

ironman.cropLiving with Keratoconus presents challenges for many individuals. Not only does KC increase the difficulty of daily tasks, it can also hinder the ability to participate in enjoyable activities: sports can be particularly frustrating. For many years, people with KC have struggled with limited options for consistent vision while performing physical activities.

Historically, gas permeable contact lenses have been one of the principle options. Yet their small size and movement led to some challenges. For instance, runners find the lenses move around the eye during the up and down bouncing motion of rhythmic running. The quick movements necessary in some sports result in variable vision and lost contacts are a possibility as lenses sometimes pop out in the middle of competition.

Scleral contact lenses have become an excellent option to achieve clear, comfortable vision that remains consistent. The larger size of these lenses means that they sit on the white part of the eye (sclera), and cover the entire surface of the cornea. They may sit partially under the eyelid adding to their stability. This leads to limited movement, making scleral lenses comfortable and stable, while decreasing the likelihood of falling out.

Dr. Rosen treats several athletes as part of his practice in Big Rapids, Michigan. “For sports with flying objects (balls) that can damage the eye, I would insist KC athletes wear scleral lenses in combination with some type of eye protection. The scleral lenses can give excellent vision while shifting the eyes or body quickly from one position to another. The risk of something coming into contact with the eye is much higher in these sports than others, so utilization of a properly impact-rated eye protection would be critical as well.” For his patients who take advantage of cycling, Dr. Rosen also recommends scleral lenses. “Not only would they help provide consistent vision and comfort, they also allow the cyclist to wear sunglasses for UV protection and form a barrier between any flying objects or rocks that may come toward the face.” He strongly recommends that KC athletes wear some kind of eye protection when they’re wearing scleral lenses for competitive sports. “Sclerals don’t replace protective glasses or goggles, and every precaution should be taken to protect KC eyes from damage. Since they are more at risk of serious injury with thinner parts of the cornea, KC patients should always wear some type of additional protection to the eye.”

Athletes with keratoconus have participated on the professional level in football, basketball and baseball. There are countless weekend athletes participating in a range of activities while living with KC. Keratoconus should not keep you from competing, but it may require an extended discussion with your eye doctor to find the vision correction solution that provides comfort, safety, and dependable vision.

Our thanks for Dr. Chad Rosen, OD, Assistant Professor at Michigan College of Optometry. Find out more about Dr. Rosen here.