Every thirteen minutes an emergency room treats a sports-related eye injury and nearly all could be prevented by using the proper protective eyewear. Sports in which balls, racquets, or flying objects are present pose a potential for eye injury. Overall, basketball and baseball cause the most eye injuries, followed by water sports and racquet sports.
Warm weather allows us to participate in outdoor sports and activities, which unfortunately increases the opportunity for a sports-related eye injury. Flying objects aren’t the only hazard, however. Many eye injuries come from pokes and jabs by fingers and elbows, particularly in games where players are in close contact with each other. Younger children are more susceptible to severe eye trauma because of their athletic immaturity and overall fearless attitude towards participation. Sports eye injuries often occur so quickly that the individual doesn’t know what hit him or her.
When it comes to eye injuries, sports can be classified as low risk, high risk, and very high risk. Low-risk sports do not involve body contact, nor do they use a ball, puck, stick, bat or racquet. Some low-risk sports include swimming, gymnastics, cycling, and track and field. High-risk sports involve body contact and/or use a ball, puck, bat, stick or racquet. Examples of high-risk sports are baseball, basketball, hockey, football, lacrosse, tennis, and other racquet sports. Very-high-risk sports involve body contact and do not use eye protection. Boxing, wrestling, and contact martial arts are sports considered very high-risk.
Sports goggles are not only practical, but are becoming a part of everyday life, much like the way bike helmets have become the norm. Street wear glasses do not meet the minimum requirements for impact resistance in sports, which can turn a small collision into a sight-threatening injury. It used to be common for people with mild to moderate prescriptions to simply participate in sports without wearing their glasses or contacts. Coaches and players recognize that clear, sharp vision is vital in sports performance, and participating in sports with less than 20/20 vision could lead to injury. For safety reasons, an individual with permanently reduced vision in one eye should wear protective glasses to protect the good eye even if he/she does not need glasses. In addition, both children and adults enjoy the look when wearing protective eyewear: it shows they mean business on the playing field.
Sports-protective eyewear is tested to meet rigid standards; lenses are made of polycarbonate and have a center thickness of three millimeters (standard eyeglass lens thickness is two millimeters). The benefits of polycarbonate lenses are multifactorial. Besides being available with or without a prescription, they are ten times more impact-resistant (they can withstand an impact from a ball or other projectile traveling up to 90 miles per hour), have built in UV protection, and are scratch resistant.
Tips to remember:
- Keep street eyewear off the playing field; they do not meet the minimum requirements for impact resistance. Sport eyewear offers superior impact resistance and eye protection.
- Increase your performance on the playing field by wearing prescription protective eyewear.
- Contact lenses may have some degree of UV protection, but offer no protection from impact. Wear sunglasses and polycarbonate lenses when participating in sport activities to protect your eyes from the harmful sun rays as you protect against impact.
- Many sports have official standards for safety equipment. Some clubs today go so far as to require their members to wear proper eye gear to participate.
– David Tang