The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly recommend protective eyewear for all participants in sports in which there is a risk of injury. It is especially important that children and teenagers wear eye protection when playing sports. If kids are going to play sports this year, parents must plan early to make sure they are safe and healthy enough to participate.
Beginning in middle school, most schools require a physical by a primary care provider in order to participate in team or individual sports. It is most beneficial to have this appointment with your child’s regular provider and accompany your child to this appointment when possible. The coach will provide a questionnaire to take to the provider’s office, which requests information about the student’s current health and health history.
The athlete should be encouraged to ask the provider questions about his or her own health at the sports physical appointment. It’s a good age to learn to speak on their behalf and to be an active participant in their own well-being.
Parents should also consider a trip to the optometrist when preparing for school sports. Each year, tens of thousands of sports and recreation-related eye injuries occur. The good news is that 90 percent of serious eye injuries are preventable through use of appropriate protective eyewear.
The risk of eye injury can vary depending on the activity. Make sure the level of eye protection you or others in your family use is appropriate for the type of activity. Regular eyeglasses do not offer proper eye protection.
Most eye injuries – 72% – occur among individuals under the age 25; 43% occur in children under 15. Baseball and basketball were associated with the most eye injuries in athletes between 5 and 24 years old. A report released by The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology also states that protective eyewear should be mandatory for athletes who function with one eye and for those who have suffered a previous eye injury or trauma.
For all age groups, sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in baseball, basketball and racquet sports.
Boxing and full-contact martial arts pose an extremely high risk of serious and even blinding eye injuries. There is no satisfactory eye protection for boxing, although thumbless gloves may reduce the number of boxing eye injuries.
In baseball, ice hockey and lacrosse, a helmet with a polycarbonate (an especially strong, shatterproof, lightweight plastic) face mask or wire shield should be worn at all times. It is important that hockey face masks be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses should be worn for sports such as basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey. Choose eye protectors that have been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards or that pass the CSA racquet sports standard.
If you already have reduced vision in one eye, consider the risks of injuring the stronger eye before participating in contact or racquet sports, which pose a higher risk of eye injury. Check with your eye care provider to see if appropriate eye protection is available and whether or not participating in contact or racquet sports is advised.
Other Risky Leisure Activities
While sports account for a particularly high number of eye injuries, they are by no means the only hobby that poses a risk to your sight. According to physicians surveyed for the 2008 Eye Injury Snapshot conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma, more than 40 percent of patients treated for eye injuries sustained at home were involved in home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking. Use common sense and err on the side of caution, whatever the activity.
Consider the risk of flying debris or other objects during activities and wear appropriate eye protection.
Remember that eyeglasses aren’t sufficient protection.
Be careful during activities or games involving projectiles and other sharp objects that could create injury if in contact with the eye. For example, the U.S. Eye Injury Registry indicates that fishing is the number one cause of sports-related eye injuries.
If you wear contacts or eyeglasses, pack a back-up form of vision correction during bike trips or other activities where you could lose or shatter a lens.
If an eye injury occurs, see an eye care professional or go to the emergency room immediately, even if the eye injury appears minor. Delaying medical attention can result in permanent vision loss or blindness.