April is Sports Eye Safety Awareness Month
In the United States, approximately 40,000 eye injuries occur each year while engaging in sports/recreational activities. The good news is that about 90% of these injuries are preventable with protective eyewear!
Sports-related eye injuries occur most commonly in basketball, water sports, baseball, and racquetball. When playing these sports or any sport that has a risk of injury, eye protection should be considered. However, if you already have reduced vision in one eye, eye protection should be mandatory.
Eye protection comes in several forms. One option is regular eyeglasses that have frames and lenses approved for protective applications. Goggles and face shields are often preferred though because these protect from the side as well. Goggles can be obtained with prescription lenses for those requiring it.
Various injuries can occur when not wearing eye protection, but most commonly injury occurs through blunt force trauma. This happens when an object hits the eye and/or surrounding structures which causes it to compress and fracture the tissues and bones. The potential for injury is directly related to the speed and hardness of the object and inversely related to its size.
For example- a golf ball is very hard and moves at a high rate of speed. It is also small enough to fit in the orbital opening and can directly compress the eye. Often, this can result in severe damage which may not be repairable. Another example is a racquetball. While racquetballs are relatively soft, they too, can compress to fit inside the orbital opening and cause severe injury.
A larger object, such as a softball, can also impact at a high rate of speed, but because of its increased size, it causes impact on the bony structures surrounding the eye. While this may fracture the bones, it often has a much better prognosis.
You can never tell when an injury is about to occur. Stay prepared and wear protective eyewear during any at risk activity! If an eye injury occurs, see an ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room immediately, even if the eye injury appears minor. Delaying medical attention may result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
Cory L. Seylar, OD – April 2015