Sports cause more than 40,000 eye injuries each year. Interestingly more than 90% can actually be prevented. You might think that basketball and baseball are some of the safest sports to play but they actually result in the most eye injuries followed closely by water sports and racquet ball sports.
Approximately 30% of ocular injuries happen in people younger than 16 and for those between 15 and 64 the most common cause of sports eye injury is basketball.
Sports activities are classified as low risk, high risk and very high risk for eye injuries. If the activity involves the use of a bat, ball, puck, stick or racquet it will be classified as high risk while those sports that don’t have body contact or other equipment use such as track and field, are classified at low risk. Very high risk sports have body contact without eye protection such as basketball, martial arts, wrestling or boxing.
Prevention of sports eye injuries includes a complete eye examination during any sports physical. Determining any deficits before playing sports or identifying any abnormalities before an injury to can help to prevent injuries or diagnose a problem once there is an injury. Athletes who are at risk for eye injuries for eye injuries, such as those with retinal detachment, eye surgery, previous injury or current infection, should be counseled regarding the sport they intend to play and the appropriate eye protection that should be used.
Some of the more common sports eye injuries are blunt trauma, penetrating injuries and radiation injury from the sun. Blunt trauma happens when you are hit directly in the eye and causes the most sports eye injuries. Serious examples of this type of injury include a broken bone under the eyeball, a broken eyeball or detached retina. Bruising around the eye and eyelid – often called a black eye – may look bad but is usually a less severe injury.
Another type of sports eye injury is penetrating injuries which is when something actually cuts into the eye. This type of injury isn’t as common. You can possibly get a penetrating injury if eyeglasses break, another person scratches the eye or an object penetrates the eye such as fish hook. Radiation injuries, or burns from ultraviolet light, are common in sports such as snow skiing, water skiing or other water sports.
Protection against eye injuries usually involves common sense. When snow skiing, cycling or water skiing strong protective sun glasses that are strong enough to withstand sudden force from a thrown stone or being tossed into the water are necessary to protect your eyes from injury. The most common and protective form of impact resistant lenses are made of polycarbonate. They are available in plain or prescription lenses.
Don’t ever try to use a protective device without lenses. Plain sunglasses won’t protect your eyes from blunt force or penetrating injury. A helmet won’t protect your eyes and it can be knocked of the head. Consult your eye doctor for the most appropriate eye protection for your sport.
Sports eye injuries during play are more common than during practice. Athletes who sustain an injury should first be evaluated by the team physician. The doctor will determine if the injury is sufficient to keep the athlete from continuing to play. Athletes should NEVER use a topical anesthetic to reduce the pain to continue to play.
Sports eye injuries which cause a sudden decrease or loss of vision, pain with movement of the eye, pain with light, light flashes or floaters, pupil changes shape, halos around the eye, sudden loss of the red reflex, sensation of a foreign body or an embedded foreign body should be seen by an ophthalmologist immediately to reduce the possibility of long term effects of the injury.
Once the injury has been evaluated by an ophthalmologist he will determine when the athlete can return to play. The injured eye should be comfortable and adequate vision. The athlete should always wear eye protection to prevent a second injury during which he may not be as fortunate. Second injuries following fast on the heels of the first can cause more damage to the eye.
There are several tips about purchasing eye guards to protect against sports eye injuries that will help your eyes stay protected and will protect your wallet against undue expense from purchasing another product because the first was inadequate to do the job.
- If you wear prescription lenses head to the eye doctor and take his recommendation.
- If you have only one eye that sees well – again head to the eye doctor for the best advice and prescription lenses.
- Eye guards for those who don’t wear prescription lenses should be purchased at sports specialty stores.
- Buy eye guards that come with lenses.
- Be sure the lenses stay in place on impact or pop outward from the face.
- Check the packaging that the product has been tested for use in sports activities. The protector should also be made of polycarbonate material.
- There should be cushioning against the brow and bridge of the nose to prevent it from cutting your skin.
- Try them on to be sure you are getting the right size. Adjust the strap to be sure it isn’t too tight or loose.
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