Sports Eye Safety
April 2022 is Sports Eye Safety Month, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants athletes everywhere to know that most sports-related eye injuries can be avoided by simply wearing the proper eye protection. Approximately 100,000 people yearly are hurt by sports-related eye injuries. Many of these injuries, about 13,500, result in permanent vision loss. Approximately 90% of serious sports eye injuries are preventable. There are roughly 3.8 million Americans who sustain sports-related concussions each year. A quick and reliable sideline on-the-field visual screening test is useful for identifying potential eye injuries and keeping athletes with vision injuries from returning to play too soon. This on-the-field visual test helps physicians better diagnose, treat and rehabilitate patients with concussions that may be related to vision injuries. It is important to note eye injuries specific to sporting events can happen in almost any sport, but some sports are at higher risk than others
Sports Eye Injury Classifications:
There are three risk categories for Sports eye injuries low risk, high risk, and very high risk.
- Low-risk sports there are no ball, puck, stick, bat, or racquet, and there is nobody contact. Low-risk sports are track and field, swimming, gymnastics, and cycling.
- In high-risk sports, there are a ball, puck, bat, stick, racquet, or body contact. Examples of high-risk sports are baseball, basketball, hockey, football, lacrosse, tennis and other racquet sports, fencing, and water polo.
- Very-high-risk sports there is no use of eye protectors. Examples of very-high-risk sports are boxing, wrestling, and contact martial arts. Boxing and full-contact martial arts pose an extremely high risk of serious and even blinding eye injuries. Currently, there is no satisfactory eye protection for boxing. However, thumbless gloves may reduce the number of boxing eye injuries.
Most Common Types Of Sports-Related Eye Injuries
Basketball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in the United States. The others, in order of occurrence, are baseball, softball, airsoft rifles, pellet guns, racquetball, and hockey. Corneal abrasion, a finger in the eye, is the most common cause of a sports-related eye injury. Other types of eye injuries are blunt trauma, penetrating injuries, and radiation injury from sunlight.
When something hits the eye during a sporting event there is a potential for blunt trauma. Blunt trauma causes some serious injuries like
- orbital blowout fracture (a broken bone under the eyeball)
- a ruptured globe (broken eyeball),
- a detached retina.
- The bruising of the eye and eyelid (“black eye”) looks bad but usually is a less serious injury.
A cut into the eye, a penetrating injury, may occur and these injuries are not very common. A penetrating injury can occur while playing sports and your eyeglasses break while you are wearing them, or you get a scratch in your eye from another person’s finger. Injuries range from mild to deep cuts. A fishing hook can result in penetrating eye injuries. Sports such as snow skiing and water skiing, and other water sports can result in radiation injuries due to exposure to the ultraviolet light from the sun.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Eyes When Playing Sports
First and most important is that you protect your eyes when participating in sporting activities that present a risk to your eyes’ safety. Always consult with your eye doctor to get insights on how you can protect your eyes. Wearing eye protection can significantly reduce or eliminate the number, and severity of eye injuries.
- Your doctor can also provide feedback on 3-mm polycarbonate lenses which is for protective sports eyewear. Polycarbonate lenses are impact-resistant, and the lightest and thinnest lenses available. The lenses are available in plain and prescription forms.
- You must never wear protective devices without lenses. It is important to note that contact lenses and sunglasses will not protect your eyes from blunt or penetrating injuries.
- Your eyes are still exposed to an opponent’s fingers or other sports equipment. when wearing a helmet or faceguard. They do not provide 100% protection because the helmet may come off and therefore leaving your eyes susceptible to injuries.
If you currently have vision loss in one eye you should seriously consider if it’s worth the risk of participating in high-risk sports activities that could result in injuring the other eye. Always check with your ophthalmologist to get recommendations for the appropriate eye protection and advice on whether you should participate in any high-impact or other high-risk sports.