Among the many awarenesses in September, one of them is Sports Eye Safety Month. As we are beginning the fall sports season, it makes sense that we should highlight the ups and downs of getting out on the field. Being involved in sports is great for teaching teamwork, getting outside, and becoming active, but with that comes the risk of various injuries, including concussions and, to our concern, eye injuries.
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), most eye injuries occurring in school-aged children are sports-related and account for an estimated 100,000 physician visits per year. Although that number is high and discouraging, it doesn’t mean that we can’t hope for that number to decrease. The NEI reports that around 90 percent of those injuries were preventable had the children worn appropriate eye protection.
Some common eye injuries include blunt injuries, corneal abrasions, and penetrating injuries. Blunt injuries occur when the eye suffers from some kind of hard impact, such as a ball hitting the eye, or maybe a fist or elbow. Corneal abrasions are simply scraped on the outside of the eye, and these generally heal on their own. Lastly, penetrating eye injuries are exactly how they sound: something foreign pierces the eye, causing damage. These injuries should be treated as quickly as possible.
It’s unfortunate that currently, schools and teams do not require eye protection. It’s now coming down to the parents, teachers, and coaches to be persistent in encouraging students to wear protective eyewear. Whether that means goggles or safety glasses of some kind, it’ll be worth it, as many of these eye injuries can lead to blindness. For children who wear contacts or glasses, protective eyewear can be made using existing prescriptions.
Protective eyewear comes in the form of polycarbonate face masks or guards, which can be attached to helmets or worn independently. Polycarbonate material is used for protective eyewear because it provides the strongest protection from impact and can be implemented into eyeglasses and sunglasses. Regular daily eyewear, such as sunglasses, will not do the trick, but rather could create its own risk to a child’s eyes.
If there is an eye injury as described above, there are a few things to keep in mind right after:
Avoid touching, rubbing, or applying any pressure to the eye.
Do not immediately apply ointment or medication to the eye. This could irritate the fresh injury.
If there is an object in the eye, try not to remove it right away. This must be done by a professional, or it could cause permanent damage.
See an eye doctor immediately.
I would like to finish this out by encouraging parents, teachers, coaches, and schools to inform and take action to require eye protection in youth sports. At Trinity Eye Care, we would like to see those eye injury statistics decrease, and we will do our part in making that happen.