BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (AFX) - When Camille Walters plays soccer, her normally brown eyes have a spooky red tint. That's because the 15-year-old wears tinted contact lenses that block certain wavelengths of light and help athletes see better.
Oh, and they look cool, too.
'It gives me more confidence because you feel intimidating and bigger and stronger, kind of an ego-booster,' said Walters, who plays for Father Ryan, a Catholic high school in Nashville.
Walters and a growing number of other athletes are wearing the MaxSight lenses, which were developed jointly by Nike Inc. and contact lens maker Bausch & Lomb Inc.
The lens -- large enough to extend a ring around the iris -- comes in two colors: amber and grey-green.
The amber lens is for fast-moving balls sports, such as tennis, baseball, football or soccer. Grey-green is better for blocking glare for runners or helping a golfer read the contour of the ground.
Professional athletes tested the lenses last year before they were rolled out for general sales.
Golfer Michelle Wie and baseball players Ken Griffey Jr. and A.J. Pierzynski wear MaxSight lenses, along with members of Manchester United, the U.S. men's soccer team and the Texas Longhorns' football team.
'The bulk of the business we expect will be with the college, high school type athlete who is really looking for that edge,' Nike spokeswoman Joanie Komlos said. 'We've seen that sales are far exceeding our expectations, and we're going to continue to roll out distribution.'
The sport lenses can be purchased only through a doctor's office at a cost of $80 per box, $160 if the prescription for each eye varies.
Dr. Jeff Kegarise, an optometrist whose office is in Brentwood, has already prescribed the lenses for college baseball players, golfers, equestrian riders and tennis players.
'The first reaction from the first two people I fit in this, they went outside and said, 'This is really cool. It's like wearing sunglasses outside,'' Kegarise said.
Even though the amber lens is intended for outdoor use, he has an Arena Football League player who used them indoors because of the bright lights.
Walters, who plays both for her high school and on a travel team, is farsighted and uses MaxSight prescription lenses, but they also come in a non-corrective version.
'It cut out some of the sun, so it wasn't as bright,' Walters said. 'It was easier to pick out where the ball was at times when it was in the air.'
But does the MaxSight lens give some athletes an unfair advantage? The associations that govern high school and college sports don't think so, but they're keeping an eye on the lenses.
Jerry Diehl, assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis, said his group doesn't believe the lenses provide the competitive advantage that Nike claims.
The federation allows the lenses and puts them in the same category as sunglasses or corrective lenses. The NCAA also allows the sports lenses because it considers them similar to sunglasses.
But Diehl said he's worried about the perception of an unfair advantage.
'If one affluent team can get this, it forces everybody else to go out and do that,' Diehl said. 'Is it really something that makes a difference? In this instance, at this juncture anyway, it doesn't seem to be any better or any worse than allowing what is already under the rule.'
Dr. William Jones of Nashville said price will keep some athletes from buying the lenses, but he expects them to be popular on high school athletics teams in wealthier school districts.
Jones said his retired father wears the grey-green lens on the golf course and loves them.
'Most of these people, they're spending tons of money already on equipment, training and everything else. This is just a drop in the bucket for most of them; generally cost isn't much of an issue,' Jones said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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