Glaringly Obvious: Why Polarized Sunglasses Are Used In Outdoor Sports
Do you remember being a little kid and getting scolded for staring up at the sun? You’d be trying to catch of glimpse of that elusive outline and your parents would tell you that looking right into the blinding brightness could actually make you go blind. We may have grown up from those days of childhood innocence and curiosity (and now know that staring at anything bright is a bad idea), but there are still eye-related risks associated with sunshine — especially if you take part in outdoor sports.
The Science Behind Glare
If you’ve ever spent time on the water, in the snow, or driving on a sunny day, you’ll most likely have experienced glare. The phenomena — which causes the loss of visual performance in addition to discomfort or pain — occurs when rays of light from the sun hit smooth and flat surfaces and become polarized; they reflect at one angle, creating an incredibly bright and intense shaft of light. Glare can be distracting and even dangerous, and is categorized into four types: distracting, discomforting, disabling, and blinding.
The first three types can be experienced by everyday people in everyday situations, with blinding glare being rarer or so brief that preventative action does not need to be taken. If you routinely participate in outdoor sports such as bicycling, fishing, or skiing, you must protect your eyes. In fact, Sports Medicine Australia reports approximately 2.2 injuries per 1,000 surfing days, and a glare from the sun can make these injuries more likely.
Enter polarized lenses. The popular sunglasses style gets its name from the Polaroid over 80 years ago, when Edwin H. Land began experimenting with lenses to make his iconic Polaroid filter. Polarized lenses have the ability to eliminate glare thanks to a special chemical. The chemical’s molecules are lined up specifically to block some of that extremely intense and focused light, acting as an invisible blind hanging in front of your eyes; only the light that passes through the blind’s openings can be seen, which reduces your eyes’ exposure to blinding glare.
Water is one of the smoothest and shiniest surfaces on the planet, and a great number of activities revolve around it. Whether you’re trying out one (or all) of the six classes of rapids in whitewater rafting or simply love to sit out and fish for days at a time, your sensitive eyes will be taking a beating if you don’t scatter that sunlight with polarized lenses.
Asphalt also poses a significant threat, particularly to long-distance bicyclers. As a sport, cycling draws health-conscious and endurance-driven individuals: coronary heart disease is reduced by 50% if you cycle just 20 miles a week. Unfortunately, that means subjecting your eyes to blinding glare for an excessive amount of time. Polarized lenses can keep you on your wheels and on the move without risking your sight.
The next time you’re thinking of heading out for a hike, a swim, or a long bike ride, remember that you wouldn’t be able to do any of those things if you lost your sight. Protect your eyes with polarized lenses and nothing will stand in the way of your adventures!