Prevent sports-related eye injuries

eye safetyIt’s spring and sporting equipment is coming out of the closets!

That’s why April is designated Sports Eye Safety Month.

If you and/or your kids play a sport that involves fast-moving balls, frisbees or sticks, the American Academy of Ophthamology (AAO) wants you to take steps to prevent eye injuries.

Every year, more than 42,000 people are seen in ERs with sports-related eye injuries, and 13,500 suffer some degree of blindness as a result.

Common sports eye injuries include corneal abrasions, lacerations and bleeding in the eye. Basketball players tend to get poked in the eye with fingers. Tennis and softball players more often get hit with fast moving balls. In contact sports like football and martial arts, more severe ocular injuries such as retinal detachment and orbital fracture occur.

About one third of the eye injuries seen in the ER are kids. According to the AAO, baseball is the most common cause of sports-related eye injuries in kids ages 5-14.

When my son was 9 or 10 and playing baseball, I made him wear polycarbonate sports glasses. The other moms thought I was too protective—until a teammate took a fast pitch to the face and it shattered his orbital bone (the bone around the eye socket). By the following practice, more kids were sporting protective lenses!

But adults need to protect their eyes, as well.

The good news is that 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear.

The AAO offers the following tips to save your vision:

  • Wear the right eye protection: For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protection with shatterproof polycarbonate lenses. See the Academy’s sports eye health webpage for more details.
  • Put your helmet on: For baseball, ice hockey and lacrosse, wear a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield.
  • Know the standards: Choose eye protection that meets American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. See the Academy’s protective eyewear webpage for more details.
  • Throw out old gear: Eye protection should be replaced when damaged or yellowed with age. Wear and tear may cause them to become weak and lose effectiveness.
  • Glasses won’t cut it: Regular prescription glasses may shatter when hit by flying objects. If you wear glasses, try sports goggles on top to protect your eyes and your frames. Sunglasses that aren’t shatterproof  can be more dangerous than not wearing them at all because pieces can end up in your eye.

Anyone who experiences a sports eye injury should immediately visit an ophthalmologist, a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye care.

Related post: First aid for eye injuries

Another great resource is STOPSportsInjuries.org. This website was developed by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine with the goal to reduce all injuries in young athletes. You can download Sports Specific Tip Sheets, or Injury Specific Tip Sheets.

We have two eyes, but they work much better in pairs, so take care of yours!

Sláinte,

Frugal Nurse

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