If you play sports, or if you have kids who play sports, it’s important that you take the proper precautions to protect your eyes from sports-related injuries. Sports-related eye injuries cause thousands of people to go blind every year and you don’t want to be included in that statistic.
Numbers and Percentages
Every year there are 100,000 eye injuries caused by sports. About 42,000 of those people end up in the emergency room, with more than 13,000 people ending up blind. Earlier this year, a study of consumer product related injuries requiring emergency room treatment stated that sports equipment, such as bats, balls, and rackets, have been responsible for the following percentages of eye injuries treated in emergency rooms:
- Children ages 10 to 14 – 41%
- Children and adults ages 15 to 24 – 25%
- Children ages 5 to 9 – 20%
Other than sports equipment, eye injuries have also been caused by fingers, hands, elbows, feet, and knees that have come into contact with a person’s eye.
Types of Eye Injuries
Sports-related eye injuries range from minor injuries such as corneal abrasions, which are scratches on the surface of the eye, to more severe injuries like orbital fractures, which occur when the bones around the eye are broken, and detached retinas, which occur when the lining at the back of the eye is pulled out of place. These more serious injuries can possibly cause permanent blindness.
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Risk Levels of Sports
The two sports that are associated with the most eye injuries are baseball and basketball, and coming in close behind are racquet sports and water sports. Most sports can be categorized into different risk groups such as low, high, and very high risk sports.
Low risks sports are the sports that do not involve any type of bat, racquet, ball, stick, or puck, and they don’t involve bodily contact. A few examples of low risk sports would be cycling, swimming, gymnastics, and track and field.
High risk sports are sports that involve a racquet, puck, stick, bat, or ball or there is body contact involved. Examples of high risk sports would be hockey, baseball, football, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, water polo and fencing.
Very high risk sports are sports where there is definite body contact and eye protectors are not used. Examples of these types of sports are martial arts, wrestling, and boxing.
Protecting Your Eyes
Children and young adults who play sports should always have protective eyewear on, like masks or polycarbonate lenses. The protective eyewear should meet all the requirements given by the American Society of Testing Materials to ensure the eyewear is safe and will properly protect their eyes. Leagues your child plays in may not require that the gear meets the ASTM requirements, but you should still only buy and use ASTM-approved gear.
If you wear glasses or contacts, you should also wear protective eyewear. Contacts do not provide any protection at all, and can even make injuries worse if you are poked or hit in the eye while wearing contacts. Glasses do not provide sufficient protection and can also cause additional injuries if the lenses were to shatter or break due to something hitting them.
If you have perfect vision in one eye and vision of less than 20/40 in the other eye, you should always wear protective eyewear for all sports you play in order to preserve the good vision you have left.
If you have only one fully functioning eye or if you’ve had previous eye injuries or surgeries, you should not participate in full-contact martial arts or boxing due to the high risk of sustaining additional eye injuries that could lead to permanent blindness.
If you play a sport that requires you to wear a helmet or facemask with a shield or eye protector such as lacrosse or football, it is highly recommended that athletes with one fully-functional eye should also wear a pair of sports goggles that meet the requirements of the ASTM.
When protective eyewear for sports have been damaged or have yellowed due to age, it is advised that you replace them with new ones because they have become weakened and will no longer provide adequate protection.
Keeping Your Eyes Healthy
Regardless of whether or not you have ever sustained an eye injury, you should take care to keep your eyes as healthy as possible. Eating a diet rich in eye-healthy foods, taking vitamin supplements that contain the 17 essential vitamins and minerals for stronger vision, and keeping your eyes properly protected when playing sports, or working with machinery or chemicals can all help to ensure your eyes remain healthy and strong and that your vision stays as crisp and clear as possible.