With April serving as Youth Sports Safety Month, we look for steps to lower the risks of injuries for children in all sports. The American Academy of Ophthalmology points out that a large number of eye injuries occur to young people in sports. Decreasing these eye injuries would be a significant step to keeping kids safe.
Statistics on eye injuries
Before we look at steps to protect the eyes in sports, it’s important to understand the scope of the problem.
- Approximately 100,000 eye injuries occur in sports each year.
- About 42,000 people are treated in United States emergency departments for sports-related eye injuries each year.
- Sports are the leading cause of eye injuries in patients in the 10 to 14 and 15 to 24-year-old age groups.
- The sports-related products causing eye injuries include baseballs, basketballs, bicycles, fishing poles, footballs, golf balls, paintballs and tennis balls.
- More than 78% of people who suffer eye injuries in sports are not wearing eyewear. Of those people who wear eyewear of some type, such as contact lenses and glasses, only 5.3% wear sports or safety glasses.
Eye injuries are a preventable problem
The good news is that these are preventable injuries. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 90% of serious injuries could be prevented with protective eyewear.
Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., an ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, stresses this prevention in a press release for April’s Sports Eye Safety Month. “Every year I treat dozens of kids with eye injuries from sports, especially at the beginning of the season. Whether they get a finger in the eye, or are slammed in the face with an errant ball, all are injuries that could have been easily avoided with safety goggles. Spending a little money on goggles could make a big difference in preventing a life-long eye injury.”
EyeSmart, a public education program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, stresses some tips to decrease eye injuries in sports. While these measures are important for athletes of all ages, young athletes should be especially cautious.
Tip: Protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses should be worn.
Since eye injuries often occur in sports like baseball, basketball, hockey and racquet sports, young players should consider wearing protective eyewear or masks, even if the leagues don’t require them. Polycarbonate plastic is thought to be a lightweight but strong material that won’t shatter. Therefore, it makes for a good shield in goggles or a mask.
Tip: Contacts and glasses are not enough.
While these are used as corrective eyewear to improve vision, they provide little or no protection against trauma. Plus glasses can shatter when hit with a flying object.
Tip: If you have impaired vision in one eye, wear eye protection.
Whether due to a prior eye injury, surgery or just poor vision in one eye, wear goggles or other eye protection, even if your vision is corrected with contact lenses or glasses.
These simple measures can dramatically lower the risk of a serious eye injury. If an eye injury does occur, you should go to an emergency room or see an ophthalmologist quickly to determine the nature of the injury and obtain appropriate treatment.
Chen AJ, Chan JJ, Linakis JG, Mello MJ, Greenberg PB. Age and consumer product-related eye injuries in the United States. Rhode Island Medical Journal. 2014 Jan 3;97(1):44-8.
American Academy of Ophthalmology. Preventing Eye Injuries. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/preventing-eye-injuries.cfm
American Academy of Ophthalmology. Eye Health in Sports and Recreation. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/sports.cfm
Sports-related eye injuries blind thousands of people each year. Medical News Today. April 3, 2013. Available at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/274953.php