Eye injuries may seem rare, but they aren’t. Every 13 minutes a United States ER treats a sports-related eye injury and nearly half of these are in children under the age of 14. Children and adolescence are particularly prone to eye injuries due their athletic immaturity and their fearlessness. Their skills are still developing, so their hand-eye coordination, balance, depth perception, reaction time and speed are not adequate in avoiding injury.
WHAT PARENTS SHOULD KNOW
The high frequency of sports-related eye injuries in young athletes highlights the need for parents to understand the risks and to be aware of the availability of sports eyewear. Vision is the most important element for playing sports. Helmets, knee pads or gloves are typical precautions for any given sport, but few parents provide their children with protective eyewear. Eye injuries are serious because most of the damage is permanent. Parents usually think that being hit by a ball is the greatest risk when playing sports, but teammates or opponents poking the eye with fingers or elbows is just as likely. The ten sports with the highest rates of eye injuries in children are basketball, baseball, pool sports, racquet sports, football, soccer, golf, hockey and volleyball, in that order. These sports should require protective eyewear. Eye protectors have been found to reduce the risk of significant eye injury by more than 90%. That’s saying a lot when sports injuries are the leading cause of childhood blindness in America. Until sports teams require safety eyewear parents need to be proactive in protecting their children’s eyes. Provide sports eyewear for your child and insist that they wear it during practice and games.
KIDS WHO WEAR GLASSES
Children who wear glasses or have had eye surgery are at greater risk for serious injury. Children who wear glasses NEED protective, prescription sports eyewear to participate. Their regular glasses put them at greater risk for injury and not wearing them while playing makes them more likely to have an accident. An eye injury could end your child’s sports future, interfere with their ability to obtain a driver’s license or render them blind. Sport goggles are easily made with your child’s prescription.
WHAT TO BUY
When shopping for sport goggles, be sure that the lenses are made of polycarbonate or Trivex, both shatter-proof materials, and are ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) approved for the sport. Sunglasses, eyeglasses and contact lenses and are NOT safe for team or ball sports and put your child at greater risk for injury. Sport Eyes (www.sporteyes. com) is an online retailer that carries a variety of cool looking eyewear organized by sport. Most frames can accommodate both prescription and nonprescription lenses. You can also opt for polarized lenses or Transitions that change from almost clear for indoor sports to dark sunglasses when playing outdoor sports. Sport goggles are economical compared to just one visit to an eye doctor, let alone an ER or urgent care visit. Maintaining your child’s current vision is, well, priceless.
Danielle Federico, M.P.H. is the author of “MOMMY FABULOUS: Complete Pregnancy Fitness and Nutrition Guide, Designed to Deliver a Fabulous Postpartum Figure.” (amazon.com) she holds a Masters of Public Health from UC Berkeley and is a personal trainer and nutritional counselor. Danielle’s popular blog www.dani-fabulous.com provides nutrition, health and fitness information for anyone looking to lead a healthier life.