Back to School and Back to Sports. Are Your Eyes Ready?

Sports and Eye Safety

For many families, the end of summer means trips to the store for clothes, backpacks, and notebooks for the new school year. But if your children are planning on signing up for fall sports, there are some often-overlooked safety items that also belong on your shopping list.

Along with heralding the start of school, September is Sports Eye Safety Month.  Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, and most eye injuries among school-aged children happen while playing sports. According to the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, wearing protective eyewear could eliminate 90 percent of sports-related injuries.

Those injuries can be severe, ranging from abrasions of the cornea and bruises of the lid to internal eye injuries, including retinal detachments and internal bleeding.

The sports most likely to result in eye injuries include baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and racquet sports, but children can also sustain injuries from soccer, tennis, and water sports, according to the Vision Council. 

Don’t become an eye-injury statistic
Every 13 minutes, an emergency room in the U.S. treats an adult or child with a sports-related eye injury. But if you or your children enjoy sports, there’s plenty you can do to keep your family out of the ER.

Many children’s and youth teams don’t require eye protection, so make sure you supply your child with safety glasses or protective goggles -- and set a good example by wearing protective eyewear yourself when you play sports.  Here’s what you should know:

  • Fashion eyewear does not offer protection. Make sure protective eyewear meets the impact standards of the American Standards for Testing and Materials purchased from a reputable sporting goods store, optical store, or optometry clinic. Acuity Vision Optometry Boutique has a wide selection of sports safety glasses.

  • Face masks should be constructed of polycarbonate (which is 10 times more impact-resistant than other plastics) that can be attached to helmets or worn alone. Polycarbonate lenses are also available in sunglasses and eyeglasses.

  • Adults or children who participate in baseball and softball (when batting), football, hockey, biking, skateboarding, inline skating, skiing, and snowboarding should always wear helmets. Among other severe problems, head injuries can cause double vision, loss of eye muscle control, and problems focusing.

  • Sunglasses or goggles with ultraviolet (UV) protection are a must when playing outdoor sports, including swim goggles when in the pool.

  • If you or your children wear glasses or contact lenses, make sure to wear safety goggles over them. Some protective eyewear, such as swim goggles, can be made to match prescriptions.

You or your child should be wearing sports goggles if either of you participate in basketball, baseball, handball, racquetball, soccer, squash, or tennis. Use swim goggles for regular swimming and water polo. You’ll need a helmet for cycling and a helmet with full face protection for football, ice hockey, or are up at bat for baseball or softball. For lacrosse, use sports goggles at a minimum but consider a helmet with full face protection.

Emergency eye care
The Vision Council has some recommended dos and don’ts in the event of an eye injury:

  • As soon as possible, have an eye doctor or other medical doctor examine the injury.

  • Until you can get medical help, shield the eye from more damage by gently holding a folded cloth over it.

  • Bandage any cuts around the eye to prevent infection or contamination in the eye.

  • If there is small debris in the eye, flush it with water, but DO NOT wash the eye if there are cuts or punctures.

  • DO NOT remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.

  • Use a cold compress to treat a blunt trauma injury such as a black eye, but do not apply pressure.

  • DO NOT apply ointments or any medications to the injured eye or give over-the-counter medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which may increase bleeding.

  • DO NOT rub the eye, which could cause more damage.

Aside from taking your own steps at home, encouraging policies on protective eyewear in your child’s school and sports teams will go a long way toward protecting kids from needless accidents. And preventing eye injuries before they happen is a goal worth aiming for.