Eye Safety and Sports
Basketball, football, racquetball, golf, and baseball.....what do these sports have in common? Answer: They are all considered sports with a high risk of eye injury. You can add to the list boxing, softball, lacrosse, hockey, tennis, soccer, paintball, fencing, badminton, and fishing. Every year 100,000 Americans suffer eye injuries during sports and recreation; 42,000 requiring emergency room treatment. The good news is 90% of these injuries could be prevented with the use of the protective eyewear.
April is National Sports Eye Safety Month. Because most sports-related eye injuries are preventable, the potential economic savings resulting from the prevention of these injuries is great, not to mention the well-being of the injured athlete. Even though most eye injuries are preventable, most sports organizations do not require participants to wear the appropriate eye safety gear. Players are required to wear pads, shoes, leggings, helmets, and even mouth guards; but, rarely, do we see players with appropriate eyewear. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the participant, parent, or coach to require players to wear the correct safety wear.
When we think of eye safety and sports, most of us immediately think of children in sports. However, more and more adults are participating in athletic and leisure activities that may pose a potential threat to the safety of the eyes if protective eyewear is not worn. One common mistake is believing one’s regular eye glasses can serve as protective wear. Not only is this incorrect, but regular eye glasses (or what eye doctors call "street wear”) can actually increase the risk of serious damage to the eyes. Regular glasses and contacts can actually puncture the eye and surrounding tissue if an accident occurs.
In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is trying to pass requirements that restrict participants from wearing "streetwear" in high risk sports. Sports enthusiasts should also realize regular sun glasses fall into the category of “streetwear.” While sun glasses protect the eyes from harmful UV rays, they may cause serious injury if a broken piece pierces the eye or surrounding flesh.
Ninety percent of sports related eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear including safety glasses, goggles, safety shields and eye guards designed for specific sports. Eyewear with polycarbonate lenses should be worn for high risk sports, and helmets with a polycarbonate face mask or shield should be worn if helmets are required. Eye protection should be approved by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). Remember, most sports organizations to not require players to wear protective eyewear, so it is up to the participant, coach, or parent to make sure appropriate eyewear is used.
In addition to safety eyewear, use the following guidelines whenever you are in the vicinity of sports activities:
*Protect eyes from flying debris or other objects.
*Remember regular eye glasses are not sufficient protection.
*Pack a backup form of vision correction during biking trips or other activities where you could lose or shatter a lens.
If an eye injury occurs, see an ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room immediately. Delaying medical attention can result in permanent vision loss or blindness.