What's the best type of laser eye surgery for sportspeople?

14 April 2022

Author: Kate Green

sports laser eye surgery

How can laser eye surgery boost your sports performance?


We cater for patients from all walks of life here at Optimax. Everyone’s motivation for getting laser eye surgery is different, whether they’re a busy parent with no time to faff with contact lenses, a HGV driver who requires excellent vision on the road, or an office worker struggling with strained eyes from looking at screens all day.


Another huge group of people who come to us for vision correction treatment are sportspeople who find that their glasses or contact lenses hold them back from performing to the best of their abilities. April is Sports Eye Health and Safety Month, so when better to discuss how vision correction surgery can help you in your sporting endeavours?


Different types of laser eye surgery at Optimax


We offer two different types of laser eye surgery at Optimax, LASIK and LASEK. Each of these procedures provides outstanding results and we have tens of thousands of happy patients for both. During any laser eye surgery procedure, the top layer of the corneal is removed. A laser is then applied to the middle corneal layer and it is this part that actually corrects your vision. Afterwards, the top corneal layer is replaced and your recovery process begins.


LASIK and LASEK differ in the way in which the top corneal layer is removed before the laser is applied to the middle corneal layer. In LASIK, which is our most popular type of laser treatment, a laser creates a small flap in your cornea. The flap is lifted to access the part of the cornea which needs treatment, and a second laser is used for this step which treats your prescription. In LASEK procedures, the surgeon applies a dilute alcohol solution to your eye to soften the top layer of the cornea. This is then gently moved to the side before the laser is applied to the exposed part of the cornea. The surgeon then moves the top layer back in place and puts a bandage contact lens in your eye to help the epithelial cells heal and regrow.


These two methods mean that the healing process in the eye varies. With LASIK, the recovery period is relatively short with just 1-2 days discomfort. This is because the edges of the flap heal quickly on their own, a process which begins as soon as the flap is replaced at the end of the treatment. With LASEK, the epithelial cells of your cornea need to regrow after their disruption in surgery. This healing process aided by the bandage contact lens but you may experience around 3-4 days of discomfort following treatment.


Time away from any sports or activities is generally the same for both LASIK and LASEK patients, and all of our patients are given aftercare information packs detailing guidelines. One exception, however, is that LASEK patients are able to resume contact sports sooner than LASIK patients. This is because no flap is created and lifted in LASEK procedures – the cells are just softened and moved. This means that the cells regrow, creating a stronger join between the top and middle corneal layers. Our aftercare guidelines recommend that patients refrain from rigorous exercise for a month following both LASIK and LASEK treatment, so as not to increase the eye pressure or interfere with the healing process.


If you participate in a lot of contact sports, such as rugby or boxing, the optometrist at your consultation will likely recommend that you have LASEK surgery, as this will be a better long-term choice for you.


Reasons that sportspeople want laser eye surgery


People who participate in lots of sports often find their glasses and contact lenses are a nuisance. More serious than a simple inconvenience are contact lens infections that can occur as a result of poor contact lens hygiene. Novak Djokovic, the world class tennis player, has frequently experienced serious contact lens issues over the years, which occasionally even cost him a win. He bowed out of the Dubai Tennis Championships in 2016 due to an eye infection which left him unable to wear contact lenses: “Unfortunately, wearing lenses is not the best way to fight infection but that was the only way for me to be able to compete.”


Djokovic wears glasses when not playing tennis, and relies heavily on glasses and contacts in daily life. In Dubai, he developed an infection in one eye which then spread to his other eye. Afterwards, he suffered from an allergic reaction which made his symptoms even worse. He was unable to wear contact lenses for this period, which affected his vision on the court. At other times, Djokovic has had to stop play because a contact lens fell out, and has even admitted to being unable to see the ball at certain points in other games.


Djokovic isn’t alone when it comes to these issues – we’ve treated Taylor Vernon, a mountain bike racing champion who previously dealt with his contact lenses falling out when he was competing. You can read more about his LASIK journey on our blog here, and find out how his life has changed after treatment.


We have treated a number of other big names in sports, whose lives, both personally and professionally, have been made easier since having laser eye surgery:

  • Sophie Christiansen, Paralympic equestrian
  • Aaron Lennon, Premier league footballer
  • John Barclay, Scottish rugby union player
  • Paul Pollock, Olympic marathoner
  • Richard Buck, Olympic sprinter


You can read more about their experiences on our blog here.


If you’d like to learn more about laser eye surgery, you can read our dedicated website page on it, or you can give us a call on 0800 093 1110. You can also send an email to enquiry@optimax.co.uk or book your FREE consultation via our website. We look forward to seeing you in an Optimax clinic soon!

Back to Blog