It’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.
The eye tissue is very delicate and easily injured, and prevention of eye injuries is key.
Playing sportsball? Protect your eyes
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, basketball is the most common cause of sports-related eye injuries in kids ages 5-14. Baseball is second.
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!
The good news is that 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear.
Pediatricians recommend that young athletes wear sports safety goggles that conform to the requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards.
The AAO offers more 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.
Other eye protection tips
Adults need to protect their eyes, too, and not only when playing sports.
Woodworking is especially risky because of splinters, sawdust, staple guns and nails. Weed whacking can also fling small pieces of wood or pebbles into your eyes.
Wear protective glasses whenever small particles, objects or chemicals could accidentally enter the eye. The wraparound style are best as they offer side protection, as well.
And learn from one of my mistakes—don’t store household chemicals in overhead shelves! Once I didn’t properly tighten the lid on a bottle of bleach before putting it away; when I reached for it, the lid fell off and the bleach just missed splashing into my eyes. Store them in lower cupboards, properly child proofed, of course.
Wear sunglasses that offer UVA and UVB protection. Even on cloudy days, the most damaging rays, the UVB rays, can cause sunburn, including sunburn of the eyes. 😎
Vision is important, so nature created several levels of protection for our eyes. First, they are surrounded by bone. Second, our eyelashes prevent dust and dirt from entering the eyes. Third, our tears effectively wash away any small bits that get past the eyelashes.
Give nature a hand—use common sense and a pair of protective lenses.
No matter how hard we try, accidents happen. Keep a first aid kit and a first aid manual handy in your bathroom, car, or sports bag.