Every 13 minutes, an emergency room in the U.S. treats a sports-related eye injury. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, more than 100,000 sports-related eye injuries occur in the U.S. each year, with more than 42,000 of these injuries requiring a visit to an emergency room. Injuries can range from a mild corneal abrasion to a more serious retinal detachment and fractured facial bones, in some cases requiring surgical intervention and costing thousands of dollars. A significant eye injury can cause permanent vision loss or even blindness.
The good news is that most sports-related eye injuries are preventable. Prevent Blindness America and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends the use of protective eyewear when playing risk prone sports. Dr. Samuel Hinton of EYE-Q Vision Care agrees, “Here at EYE-Q, we treat hundreds of sports-related eye injuries every year that could have had a different outcome had the patient been wearing protective eyewear. While EYE-Q’s state-of-the-art facility is equipped to handle traumatic eye injuries, we strongly recommend the use of the appropriate eyewear to avoid these preventable injuries and protect your vision.”
While full-contact sports, such as basketball, pose an obvious risk, non-contact sports such as swimming also have a high rate of eye injury. Getting the proper sport-specific protective eyewear is a key factor in preventing injuries. The type of eyewear needed depends on the activity, but can include safety glasses and goggles, safety shields and eye guards designed for a particular sport. Ordinary prescription glasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses do not provide adequate eye protection. In fact, wearing “street wear” can actually pose a greater risk of eye injury than using no protection at all.
Here are some tips from EYE-Q to help consumers find the best eye protection:
- Parents should learn about the risks associated with any sport before allowing their child to participate, and consult an eye doctor for recommendations on the appropriate eyewear.
- People who wear prescription eye glasses should see their eye care provider to be fitted for prescription eye protection.
- Only wear protective eyewear that is labeled as “ASTM F803 approved.” This eyewear is performance tested by the American Society of Testing Materials to give the highest levels of protection. For a complete list of ASTM approved sports protective gear and eyewear visit geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/eye-injuries/protective-eyewear.cfm.
- Don’t buy sports eye guards without lenses. Lenses should either stay in place or pop outward in the event of an accident. Lenses that pop in against your eyes increase your risk of eye injury.
- To prevent foggy lenses, buy eye guards with anti-fog coating or side ventilation. Try on different types to determine which is the most comfortable for you.
- Only buy eyewear made of polycarbonate material that has been tested for sport use. Polycarbonate lenses are thin, lightweight, scratch-resistant, and 10 times more impact-resistant than other materials.
- Wear eye guards that are padded or cushioned along the brow and bridge of the nose to avoid cutting your skin.
- Make sure the eyewear fits well. Adjust the strap and make sure it’s not too tight or too loose. If purchased at an optical store, an optical representative can help you adjust the eyewear for a comfortable fit.
Many youth and children’s sports teams don’t require eye protection so it’s important for parents to be aware of the risks. Parents should always insist on their child wearing protective eyewear whenever they play and should set a good example by wearing it themselves. Remember whatever the sport and whatever the age…appropriate protective eyewear is the best defense against eye injuries.
Source: Prevent Blindness America, The American Academy of Ophthalmology, The American Academy of Pediatrics, National Eye Institute