A ten-year-old boy recently lost an eye after his glasses broke when he took a ball to the face. Flying footballs and close physical contact between players mean that picking up an eye injury is always a possibility when playing football, and a risk that can sometime have tragic consequences.
Thankfully, incidents like the one highlighted above are a very rare occurrence, but the risk is always there.
If your child wears glasses for normal day-to-day activities, not wearing them while playing football could put them at a disadvantage – but is it safe to wear glasses when playing football?
Is it safe for my child to wear glasses when playing football?
At grassroots level, the decision is with the parents and coaches in training and friendly matches, and the referee will have the final decision in competitive matches.
But we would strongly echo the FA’s guidance on this matter and recommend that prescription glasses are never worn when playing football – whether in training or a match - and that sports goggles with prescription Polycarbonate lenses should instead be used (like the ones Edgar Davids famously wore).
As a coach, the responsibility of the child’s safety fall on you during training and match situations, so please do share this with parents.
Here’s the FA’s official statement on children and grassroots football:
“Whilst The FA recommends Polycarbonate lenses we recognise this may be an issue for children playing in grassroots football. Therefore we encourage referees officiating in grassroots youth football to be tolerant over glasses. However the individual referee has to show concern for all those playing in that game and if s/he feels there is something dangerous in the glasses i.e. sharp edges, etc, then in order to protect players and also the wearer him/herself s/he has the authority to say the glasses can’t be worn.”
What are sports glasses?
Sports glasses or goggles can be worn with both prescription and non-prescription lenses, to protect the eyes from fast moving objects, and should comprise the following:
- Polycarbonate Lenses: This is the most important property of all protective spectacles or goggles. Good polycarbonate is virtually unbreakable, and will sustain the impact of a ball or finger.
- Sports Band: an elasticised band and not temple pieces should secure the frame. Players must have something that will be secured tight to the head so that the spectacles or goggles won't fall off. A frame with temples will not hold tight enough and a jab from a finger could lift the frame off and potentially damage the eye.
The FA guidance on eyewear in football continues:
“Although sports eyewear is intended to offer the best protection available, there is always the possibility that the wearer may sustain an eye or facial injury due to severe impact or because of the nature of the athletic activity. Referees should ensure that if a request has been made to wear glasses/goggles, that they must not be a danger to himself or to any other player.”
The FA has also issued the following guidance
Guidance for players playing with glasses
Referees should check each player’s equipment prior to kick off, or the player entering the field of play as a substitute.
The law tells us...
A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous.
All items of jewellery (necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, leather bands, rubber bands, etc.) are forbidden and must be removed. Using tape to cover jewellery is not permitted.
The players must be inspected before the start of the match and substitutes before they enter the field of play. If a player is wearing or using unauthorised/ dangerous equipment or jewellery the referee must order the player to:
- remove the item
- leave the field of play at the next stoppage if the player is unable or unwilling to comply
A player who refuses to comply or wears the item again must be cautioned.
If a player is wearing glasses, the referee should check that they are sports glasses, which do not contain glass or a metal frame. This is for the safety of the player and other participants in the match, as per the Laws of the Game.
Any player wanting to wear glasses which the referee deems to compromise safety, should remove the glasses or not be allowed to play until so.