Sports are great, there’s no doubt. Whether you play for fun, competitively in a league, or are in the stands supporting your favorite little athlete, sports are a perfect way to bond, stay in shape and learn team building skills. However, amidst the fun we often forget to protect our eyes, which are just as susceptible to injury as any other part of our bodies.
According to the National Eye Institute, more than 100,000 eye injuries in the United States are sports-related. Out of that 100,000, around 42,000 require emergency room attention. Though people are well aware of the dangers of an eye injury, little is being done by athletes and teams (even children’s teams) to protect them.
For this reason, April has been designated Sports Eye Safety Month. This month, people all across the U.S. raise awareness and encourage everyone to protect their eyes from sports-related injuries. Here are just a few things you could be doing to protect your eyes while playing sports.
Wearing protective eyewear merits the top spot on our list because it is probably the most important and effective way to protect your eyes. The National Eye Institute reports that 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries are easily preventable with the right eye protection.
The best type of eye protection will be made of ultra-strong polycarbonate. This material is 10 times stronger than regular plastic eyewear. Sport goggles and glasses need to be impact resistant to avoid breaking and causing an eye injury.
Another way you can keep your children safe from experiencing potential vision loss injuries due to sports is to encourage their little leagues and school teams to enforce protective eyewear. It may not look cool, but it could save your child’s precious eyesight.
Which Protection for Which Sports?
You wouldn’t wear hockey equipment to play basketball, and vice versa. So why would you wear the same eyewear for every sport? A universal pair of safety eyewear, or a one pair fits all, does not exist. This isn’t in the case to make your life inconvenient, but to make it safer. The right protection will offer the best protection.
There are a lot of different types of protective eyewear out there. Choosing the right one can be difficult and confusing. Your local sporting store will likely be able to guide you through the maze of protective eyewear. Here’s a quick breakdown of the best kind of eyewear and their respective sports:
For sports like tennis, racket ball or badminton, where balls and shuttlecocks are flying around, high impact safety glasses or goggles would be the way to go. You wouldn’t want an object traveling at 60 miles an hour, let alone another player’s racket, hitting your eye.
Basketball is a sport with lots of close contact, where a ball to the face isn’t the only type of injury. Basketball players risk getting elbows or fingers or knees to the eye. Really any misplaced limb of the opposing team can cause an eye injury. In this case, a safety goggle with impact resistance that prevents anything entering the eye would be best.
These same goggles or wrap around glasses are good for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, skiing, etc. They will prevent debris (branches, rocks, sticks) and dust from entering the eyes.
Until 2013, visors attached to hockey helmets were not mandatory in the NHL. Though 73 percent of those playing the season before (2012-2013) already wore visors, that leaves 27 percent of the players unprotected. That was the case for Marc Staal, who that season, suffered a terrifying tear after a puck hit him in his right eye.
Unfortunately, cases like Staal’s are not isolated. It just goes to show how important a polycarbonate visor is in professional and amateur leagues. Dishing out some extra money for a visor is nothing compared to a torn eye and the long and painful recovery time.
Eye exams are an essential part of anyone’s vision health, but probably even more so for athletes who rely heavily on their sense of sight. Eye injuries in sports aren’t always due to a finger in the eye or the impact of a ball to the face, sometimes sports-related eye injuries develop from pre-existing vision conditions that have yet to be diagnosed.
But surprisingly, many athletes do not get their eyes checked for pre-existing eye conditions. The danger in this undiagnosed condition is that it continues to worsen; sometimes without the athletes knowledge until it is too late.
Eyesight is a crucial tool for athletes. Without sharp vision, they risk underperforming in their sport as well as causing harm to other players. Whether you are an athlete yourself or have a little one gearing up to be the next NHL star player, get a comprehensive eye exam to make sure all systems are a go!
How to Deal With an Eye Injury
Most of the time, there are medics on the scene during sporting events in the event that someone should be terribly injured. However, sometimes smaller leagues or even garage leagues can’t afford this luxury.
If you happen to get injured when no medics are around, your best bet is to go to the emergency room. Especially for injuries where foreign objects enter the eye, as well as blunt objects hitting the eye. These injuries can cause tears and detachments in the eye, which are best taken care of by a professional.
If you happen to get dust or tiny sand particles accidentally swept up in your eye while you’re running your bases, wash your eye out immediately. This will likely remove the sand or dust. However, if irritation or swelling develops and persists, seek a doctor’s help.
Eye injuries related to sports are far more easily preventable than a broken limb, yet most of us choose to live on the edge by not taking the proper precautions. Next time you step out onto the court, the field, or the ice, be sure to have your protective eye gear in tow.