Protective eyewear may prevent 90 percent of sports related eye injuries

Protective eyewear may prevent 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries

As outdoor sports begin in the spring, parents usually recognize the need for shin guards, helmets, face masks, pads, athletic shoes and cleats, but they might not recognize the need to protect their child’s eyes.

“In the United States, 600,000 eye injuries per year are seen in emergency rooms,” says Jefferson Langford, OD, an optometrist at Intermountain Riverton Hospital’s Southridge Ophthalmology Clinic in Riverton, Utah.

The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health reports the following statistics about eye injuries:

  • Every 13 minutes, an ER in the United States treats a sports-related eye injury.
  • Most eye injuries among kids aged 11 to 14 occur while playing sports.

What outdoor activities and sports are most prone to eye injuries?

The National Eye Institute reports:

  • Sports played with a ball or other high-flying projectile top the list for eye injuries.
  • Baseball is a leading cause of eye injuries in children 14 and under.
  • Outdoor sports with the highest rates of eye injuries include baseball/softball, tennis, and other racquet sports.

“Protective eyewear may prevent 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries. If your child wears glasses and plays sports, ordinary prescription glasses do not provide adequate protection,” says Dr. Langford.

What should sports glasses and goggles be made of?

“Protective eyewear should be made of polycarbonate, which is a shatterproof lightweight plastic,” he says.

If your child doesn’t usually wear glasses, do they need eye protection for certain sports?

Dr. Langford offers these facts and recommendations for protecting eyes during baseball:

  • Batters’ helmets should have a polycarbonate face shield.
  • Sports goggles equipped with polycarbonate lenses should be worn by pitchers and by players in the outfield. Only 15 percent of these players are wearing eye protection as they should.
  • Baseball players are three times more likely to be hit by a ball that’s batted than one that’s thrown by a pitcher.
  • Eyewear should be baseball-specific and sit comfortably on the face.
  • Sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses should always be worn when there’s a risk of a high-flying small projectile, especially in a closed space.
  • All safety eyewear should follow the American Society for Testing and Materials International testing standards and specifications. Information can be found on their website.

What should you do if you have an eye injury?

Dr. Langford recommends these general guidelines and encourages all those with a significant eye injury to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

For all eye injuries:

  • Don’t touch, rub, or apply pressure to the eye.
  • Don’t try to remove an object stuck in the eye.
  • Don’t apply ointment or medication to the eye.
  • See an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

To treat a blow to the eye:

Gently apply a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling, but do not apply pressure. If you have eye pain or visual disturbances, see your doctor.

If the eye is punctured:

  • Gently place a shield over the eye.
  • Don’t rinse with water.
  • Avoid giving aspirin or ibuprofen as they may increase bleeding.
  • See an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.