For many kids, sports are a normal and enjoyable part of growing up. It does however carry a significant risk. According to a recent study by the National Eye Institute (NEI), eye injuries related to sports activities are the leading cause of blindness in school aged children.
In children aged 14 and younger, baseball is the sport that causes the most eye injuries. The NEI reports that 1 out of every 50 Little Leaguers will sustain an eye injury. For the 15 to 24 age group, the sport that causes the most eye injuries is basketball. Hockey and ringette, which are very popular in Alberta, carry less of a risk due to the mandatory face guards which must be worn attached to helmets. Football visors that are tinted are not recommended, due to the difficulty in assessing pupil function in an athlete who has sustained an injury.
A study in the US by Prevent Blindness America showed that 72% of all sports-related eye injuries are to those aged 25 and younger. Fortunately, 90% of these injuries are preventable just by wearing the proper eye protection.
Protective sports lenses should be made of polycarbonate, which is the most impact-resistant material. The frame which houses the lenses should be made for sports applications, and fit snugly enough so it does not impede the athlete’s vision to the side.
Common injuries among athletes who do not wear approved protection include painful scratches on the cornea, inflamed iris, fracture of the eye socket, swollen or detached retinas, traumatic cataract and hyphema (blood behind the cornea). Injuries can range from temporary to permanent vision loss. All injuries or suspected injuries to the eye should be attended to by your optometrist.