Five steps to protect the eyes of young athletes

Nearly 30,000 people suffer sports-related eye injuries each year. An incredible 90% of these ER visits could have been avoided if the athlete was wearing protective eyewear.

Even less strenuous sporting activities carry some risk of eye injury. From basketball to racquetball, youth leagues to pros, players need to protect their eyes.

As children begin to return to their favorite sports, Aspirus Health and the American Academy of Ophthalmology remind the public that the best defense against potentially blinding sports-related injuries is to wear protective eyewear.

“Tens of thousands of sports and recreation-related eye injuries occur every year,” said Alissa Pikka, certified athletic trainer at Aspirus Health. “The right protective eyewear can significantly reduce the risk of eye injury.”

“Getting athletes of all ages to wear goggles is a challenge,” Pikka said. “You hear all the reasons not to wear eye protection: it’s cumbersome; it will impair peripheral vision; it will fog up. But sports eyewear has improved dramatically over the years. And if you start early with your kids, wearing goggles will become as natural as donning a batting helmet when they step up to the plate.

Some common sports-related eye injuries that ophthalmologists routinely treat include corneal abrasions, bruising around the eye, retinal detachments, and internal bleeding.

Here are some safety tips for all athletes to practice:

  • Check and follow eye protection requirements and standards.
  • Consider replacing eyewear once it becomes yellowed or damaged to ensure the best protection.
  • For basketball, racquet sports, soccer, and field hockey, wear goggles with polycarbonate lenses.
  • For snow or water sports, consider glasses with UV protection to avoid sunburn or glare.
  • Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should always wear eye protection; Contact lenses and regular glasses are not a substitute for sports goggles.

If you sustain an eye injury, seek medical attention immediately, even if the injury seems minor. sometimes noticeable symptoms develop later.

“Different activities and sports have many levels of risk for eye injury,” Pikka said. “Use extreme caution when performing activities or games involving projectiles and other sharp objects that could cause injury if they come into contact with your eyes.”

To learn more about eye health and/or athletic training services offered by Aspirus Health, visit

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