By Michael Hutton 

Contact lenses for children  could be a key means of addressing their poor eyesight which will otherwise hamper Government plans to build on the Olympic legacy and increase sports participation in schools. This is according to a report from independent optician support group Sight Care following a survey of 1,500 parents and children.

Despite the Government allocating a budget of £150m as investment to increase PE and sports activities within schools, Sight Care found that 20% of children struggled to see the ball when playing sport. Even more worrying was the evidence that half of these respondents had been unable to take part in sport because their vision was so bad.

Given these disturbing results, it would be normal to consider that contact lenses for children  could be a solution. However, further results from the survey show that some 60% of children do not visit the optician regularly for sight and eye health checks. Even worse, 10% of parents admitted they had never had their children's eyes tested.

So it is hardly surprising that sports participation by children following the Olympics has yet to take off as the Government had hoped. Short-sightedness - where distant objects appear blurred - will progressively worsen throughout childhood by as much as half a diopter each year. So the problem of low sports participation will not improve until more children have regular eye checks and thereby receive appropriate corrective treatments for any vision problems.

Sight Care Chief Executive Paul Surridge said: "It is so important that children have clear vision when they are out on the pitch or the running track so that they can get the very best out of the sporting opportunities on offer." Given that sport is so often a positive catalyst for personal development, it seems clear that prescribing contact lenses for children  where vision problems are identified after getting their eyes checked is a key step to getting more of them participating in sport.

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