Dangers of swim goggles: true or false?
March 4, 2005 8:57 AM   Subscribe

When I was young, I was instructed not to wear swim goggles for any water activity that could force water at them, like waterskiing or diving headfirst off a diving board. The theory was that strong contact could pull one's eyeball out of its socket as a result of the suction and vacuuming that would occur on impact with the water. Fact or fiction?
posted by werty to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know for sure, but I suspect it's fiction. Olympic athletes get really top-notch sports medicine. If there was any way wearing goggles was going to lose them an eyeball, someone would have invented a million-dollar pair of eyeball-saving goggles by now.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:08 AM on March 4, 2005

At the very least, Fark would have an entire category set aside for local news stories of people losing their eyeballs. This smells totally bogus.
posted by mkultra at 9:12 AM on March 4, 2005

Fiction, but diving in with goggles could force them down your face and into your nose, which may hurt.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:12 AM on March 4, 2005

Also consider how often you hear about anyone's eye being pulled out of the socket.
posted by smackfu at 9:12 AM on March 4, 2005

This has an ew factor of 9 for me, but I will say that I've experienced pain as a result of diving into my pool with goggles that were already heavily suctioned to my face. I can't imagine there would be a way, in a typical swimming pool, to create enough suction to do that kind of damage.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:18 AM on March 4, 2005

For the record, I've never seen an Olympic diver wearing goggles.
posted by grouse at 9:20 AM on March 4, 2005

I don't see any reason why you can't wear goggles while diving off a board or waterskiing, but you shouldn't wear goggles while diving below about 20 feet.

As you descend, the water pressure increases and the airspace inside the goggles compresses. Since goggles have so little airspace to begin with, the end result is that your eyeballs can in fact be sucked out of their sockets--usually not all the way, mind you, but enough to break a lot of blood vessels.

If you plan to dive deep, wear a mask which includes your nose. That way you will naturally add air to the mask as the airspace inside it compresses.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:22 AM on March 4, 2005

I would suspect it's urban legend, but it's one of those stories that gets told to prevent people from using goggles as a crutch. Competitive swimmers can wear goggles because they're jumping from just above the water and impacting the goggle primarily flush on... add any amount of unbalanced force to that impact, and those goggles are gone. It takes very little unbalanced force to lose your air seal, and your skin is a lot more deformable than those goggles are...

In younger years, I tried wearing goggles while diving off low boards because my eyes HATE chlorine... and they never stayed in place no matter how tight they were, or how I went in the water. And every session I ended up with nice little burns where the rubber skidded against skin on impact for my troubles.

I was never crazy enough to try wearing them off platform or water skiing, though. I imagine that would be either be excessively painful, or the goggles would fly off so quickly it'd be like they were never on in the first place.

(Is it a bad sign that I had to correct my spelling of goggle four times up there because I kept typing 'google?')
posted by Pufferish at 10:55 AM on March 4, 2005

Doesn't sound very probable to me, but what cerebus19 speaks of may be the origin of the idea.

If you try to scuba dive with goggles, you will mess up your eyeballs something fierce. They'll get painfully squeezed the deeper you go, and then blow up again as you ascend doing who knows what types of ick.

That's why when you scuba diver you wear a mask. It puts your nose in the same space as your eyes. Air flows out the nose and keeps the pressure in the mask equal to your lungs, which is equal to that of the outside water thanks to the scuba system.
posted by Leonard at 3:58 PM on March 4, 2005

If you dive from a low height (blocks or low dive), you can keep your goggles on your face by tucking your chin. I suspect Olympic divers don't wear goggles because they don't need to see in the water; swimmers do: they need to see the wall and the line. When you dive from the blocks, you do hit the water pretty hard (and when you screw up, oh, the pain), so I would imagine that if it were dangerous, we would know by now.

Like others, I suspect this mix up comes from the confusion of dive as in go down into the ocean with dive as in jump into the water.
posted by dame at 6:17 PM on March 4, 2005

Slightly off topic note: The "chlorine" that your eyes hate so much is not free chlorine that kills bacteria. It's used chlorine. It means there is not enough free chlorine in the pool. Same applies for the strong smell we think of as "chlorine".
posted by Goofyy at 12:43 AM on March 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

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