Protecting your eyes is important and this should also go with playing sports. Over 25,000 people a year look for treatment due to eye injuries while participating in a sporting event. Practically all of these injuries could have been prevented with the right eyewear. (Celebrities who have vision loss).
Protective eye wear may not look that great but it will help keep you out of the ER when you should be playing the game. This eye wear should be an essential part of any athlete routine along with your other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Injuries can occur so fast.
No matter which sport you choose, your eyes are put at risk with flying balls and equipment such as bats or racquets and also other players body parts (yes we’ve seen it) those flinging fingers, elbows, hands and feet can cause bodily harm. Sports are competitive.
Young children who don’t quite have the skills yet or the physical coordination should always wear eye protection.
Wearing the proper equipment for your sport will help in avoiding an eye injury.
Bruises and broken bones will eventually heal but a serious eye injury affects your quality of life.
Some organizations are celebrating Sports Eye Safety Awareness Month in September while others chose the month of April. No matter which month, it is an important concern.
Eye Injury Risk
The risk of eye injuries increases if the sport involves high speed balls, swinging clubs or bats and aggressive play. Basketball, baseball and air/paintball guns top the list of eye injuries leading causes.
- Very high risk sports; boxing, wrestling and martial arts. These sports involve direct face to face contact. A lot of the action involves hands in the opponent’s face.
- High risk sports; baseball, softball, football, basketball, paintball, ice hockey, soccer, rugby, lacrosse and racquetball. High risk sports have the use of extremely fast moving balls and players who are in contact with them.
- Moderate risk sports; tennis and golf. Moderate sports can be fast moving also but typically play on a more open area which gives you more time and space to get out of harm’s way.
- Low risk sports; track, swimming, dance, cycling and gymnastics. Low risk sports have no involvement with a ball, bat, puck, stick or racquet. There is usually no body contact.
Some eye injuries have occurred using exercise resistant bands during gym workouts. (I have experience with these, they can easily snap or slip from your hold and fling back in your face. So use caution).
PPE for Each Sport
Talk to your eye doctor to collect information on the best eye protection. Search for eye protection that is recommended for your particular sport. If you wear prescription eye glasses get fitted for protective eyewear.
- Baseball players should choose a sturdy plastic or polycarbonate face guard, adding goggles or eye guards
- Basketball players should choose goggles
- Soccer players should choose eye guards
- Football players should choose eye guards and a full face guard
- Hockey players should choose a mask made of polycarbonate material or wire
- Tennis or racquet ball players should choose goggles
For racquet sports or basketball safety goggles (lenses polycarborate protectors) are recommended. Look for eye wear that is labeled as ASTM F803 approved.
To keep eye guards from cutting or digging into your skin these should be padded or cushioned along your brow and the bridge of your nose.
Shop for eye guards at a sports store or optical store where the specialist is familiar with your eyesight and can fit for the sport you play.
As with regular glasses finding the right fit would require trying on the eye protection. Make sure it is not too tight versus too loose either, by adjusting the strap. Talk to your eye doctor making sure the fit is safe and comfortable.
Maintain your Eye Wear
You don’t want a lens to pop inward and damage your eye so make sure the lenses are secure.
Replace eye protection if damaged or when it has yellowed from age. Regular wear and tear can cause weakness and the effectiveness is lost.
You can’t wear your regular prescription glasses as protective eye wear for sports, they are not the same. The glasses may shatter when hit with a ball. Wearing sports goggles over the glasses will protect your eyes and frames.
Most Common Sports Related Eye Injuries
If your eyes are injured playing a sport you should immediately consult your ophthalmologist (a doctor with the specialty of medical and surgical eye care).
Blunt Eye Trauma one of the most common, this can happen when an object or someone hits you in your eye or that area (easy to do with all these objects swinging around) can result in a painful blow to the face.
This may cause only bleeding of the eyelids or result in a black eye, bruising of the eye, eyelid or area around the eye. It may look bad and can cause damage.
More severe injuries may be a ruptured globe (broken eyeball), a detached retina (retina is tissue sensitive to light and this may separate from the choroid) or an orbital blowout fracture (involving the breaking of one or more bones under your eyeball).
Penetrating Eye Injuries can happen due to a cut from someone or a foreign object entering the eye.
This may result from broken glasses, flying debris or the contact of another player’s finger or gear. The cut can range from mild to deep.
Corneal Abrasion a scratch can result to the area of the eye after a small bit of debris blows in as a player dives for home plate in the final inning of baseball.
Its not uncommon with basketball for athletes to get a corneal abrasion from the other player’s fingernail during a close encounter.
Radiation Eye Injury the eye can be affected by the sun’s UV rays as much as your skin. Playing a game outdoors for hours can put atheletes at exposure of harmful rays that may damage or increase the risk of vision loss.
This can affect players of water or snow sports, like water or snow skiing. Sunlight can also reflect off the water or snow. This can increase the risk of eye injury (and cancers).
Chemical Burns – Chemicals used in powders and sprays that mark the lines of sports fields can easily get kicked up and into a players eye. These chemicals, like acids and alkali can cause permanent blindness.
A milder chemical may only result with irritation, burning and over-tearing until the eye can be flushed out with cool water or a sterile saline solution.
Seeking medical attention right away is crucial to prevent further trauma with an eye injury. It can dramatically improve your chances of preserving the vision. It should be noted, not all serious eye injuries come with visual signs or symptoms. Having a complete exam by your eye specialist can rule out any serious injuries.
You should not treat an eye injury yourself or try removing something from your eye. Having a scratch may give the sensation of an eyelash or other object in your eye that you can’t get rid of. Do not rub your eye this can make the injury worse. Seek medical attention right away for the following symptoms:
- Loss of vision
- Intense pain
- Blood in the eye
- Pus or fluid draining from eye
- Cut in your eye, eyelid or the area surrounding it
- Object in the eye
- If the eye is swollen shut
Often eye injuries need treatment. This depends on the type and degree of injury. For a mild case like a black eye, a cold compress can be applied to help reduce the swelling. This can be done for 5-10 minutes each time, with a break in between. You may switch with cold to a warm compress
Products can be purchased over-the-counter to help with the pain and color of bruises.
If you have a severe eye injury, your doctor may refer you to an eye specialist; optometrist or ophthalmologist.
After examining your eye there may be treatment options. These could be removing an object or flushing the eye out or require surgery to repair your eye.
You won’t be able to return to the sport until the doctor says it’s ok. Taking a pain-medication or topical anesthetic to play through the pain is defiantly not an option. You should not play if your vision is impaired at all. You will need to wear proper eye protection once you return to sports.
Eye injuries can lead to partial or complete blindness. If you play a high risk sport it is important to talk to your specialist about protection. Eye protection can help reduce the degree of an injury.
It is best to wear 3mm polycarbonate lenses. These are thin, light weight and impact resistant. You have the option of safety glasses or goggles that come in basic or prescription forms. If you need to wear glasses to see you should be using safety eyewear over them.
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www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/sports-eye-protection-history accessed 09/05/2020
https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/eye-injuries accessed 09/05/2020