Thank you to our local pickleball ambassador John Gardner for writing this article on the need for eye protection for pickleball.  Pickleball players who refuse to wear court certified eye guards are quite simply blind to the data and common sense on the topic.  Please read and share this information with those you play with.  Our court certified pickleball safety glasses start at just $8.95, so price can not be your excuse!

Written by and shared with permission from John Gardner

Pickleball Science or Why YOU should wear eye protection

After I was hit in the eye playing Pickleball, I wondered why I hadn’t been able to protect myself.  So on Sunday, January 23, 2011 at the Ogden Community Center I recorded the sounds of Pickleball play.  I analyzed the recording to find the shortest time between two hits when both players were at or near the no-volley lines.

It frequently took between 350 and 400 millisecond for a slammed ball to travel from one paddle to the other, and once the time was only 250 milliseconds (one quarter of a second).

Now consider that your reaction time, the time from when you see the ball hit the opponents paddle to the time you can begin to move a muscle in response, is probably between 200 and 300 milliseconds.  (You can test yourself at this website:

If you then start to move the paddle to intercept the ball (or protect your face) it will take additional time to get the paddle where you want it.  In testing I performed, it took me at least 55 milliseconds to move just the first 8.25 inches (the width of the paddle).

Taking the 350 millisecond transit time and subtracting 200 milliseconds for reaction time and 55 milliseconds for the first 8.25 inches of paddle movement, only 95 milliseconds (less than one tenth of a second) remains to move the paddle the rest of the way to where you want it.  It can’t be done!

So even the fastest of you can’t protect yourself from an opponent’s hard slam from the no-volley line if you wait to see where the ball is going.  You can’t protect your eyes with your paddle or even turn you head in the time you have.  You may be able to anticipate your opponents intent to slam and gain a little time to react, but by the time you see the ball headed toward your face, it’s way too late.

So your options are:

  • Look away before the ball is hit (and lose the point).
  • Play the odds that the ball probably won’t hit your eye (and risk your sight).
  • Wear protective eyewear (and perhaps look less than stylish).

My vote is for the eyewear.  Simple lens-less racquetball glasses are perfect for those who don’t wear glasses or only wear contacts.   You can find a wide selection of protective eye wear on the internet and there are a few are available for use over glasses.  Safety glasses are another option.

I wish I’d started wearing protective eyewear before I got hit in the eye in the summer of 2010.  Internal bleeding in the eye and a small tear in the retina resulted.  Fortunately most of my eye damage wasn’t permanent.  You might not be so lucky!

John Gardner
September 13, 2013

For additional information on pickleball safety glasses read the related article How to Choose Platform Tennis and Pickleball Eyeguards 

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