Now that fall sports are underway, now is a great time for a refresher on maintaining safe practices to prevent sports injuries to the eyes. Each year, more than 25,000 people seek treatment in emergency departments or emergency care centers for sports-related eye injuries. It is important to note that the majority of these injuries could have been avoided.
Different sports and physical activities present different levels of risk of eye injury. Recent studies have found that basketball is the largest contributor to sports-related eye injuries in the United States, followed by baseball, watersports, airsoft rifles, pellet guns, racquetball, and hockey. Full-contact boxing and martial arts pose an extremely high risk of serious or even blinding eye injuries. There is no satisfactory eye protection for boxing, although thumbless gloves can reduce the number of boxing eye injuries.
Those who play ice hockey and men’s lacrosse should wear a helmet with a polycarbonate face shield or metal shield. Hockey face masks must be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Take these additional steps to avoid sports eye injuries:
– Be careful during any activity or game involving projectiles and sharp objects that could cause injury if they come in contact with the eyes.
– Wear appropriate safety glasses (polycarbonate lens protectors) for racket sports or basketball. In order to be assured that your eyes are protected, it is important that any eye guards or sports goggles are labeled as ASTM F803 approved. These glasses are tested to offer you the highest levels of protection.
– Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for youth baseball.
– Use helmets and face shields approved by the US Amateur Hockey Association when playing hockey.
– If you usually wear prescription glasses, remember that they do not provide the proper eye protection required by many sports. In fact, those who wear glasses could potentially suffer a more serious eye injury if the glasses break. Regardless of the activity, be sure to use the right type of eye protection for each sport you participate in. Protecting your eyes for life should always be a top priority.
If you have an eye injury, play it safe and go to the emergency room, even if the injury appears minor. Delaying medical attention can potentially lead to permanent vision loss or blindness.
It is also important to add that spectators at sporting events should also be careful. Balls, sticks and players can be found in the stands at any time. Keep your eyes on the game and watch out for foul balls, flying objects and other dangerous situations that can be created by participants and / or fans.
Dr. Charles Fetterman is an ophthalmologist and medical director of the Niagara Regional Surgery Center. To book an eye care appointment at his Lockport office at 70 Professional Parkway, call 434-7505. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a special feature of the Eastern Niagara Health System.