April is Sports Eye Safety Month. If you swim, ski or play racquetball, chances are you already know about the importance of protecting your eyes. But you may not think about the importance of protecting your child’s eyes from injury on the playing field. Here’s what you need to know about sports eye safety.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 40,000 sports-related eye injuries occur each year. The majority of those injuries occur in children, and in most cases, the visual impairment is permanent. Basketball and baseball are considered the highest risk sports for eye injuries, regardless of age. Racquet sports, boxing and martial arts are also high risk sports for eye injuries.
When it comes to basketball, you may think of Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and his goggles, although many NBA players wear them now. Because basketball is such a contact sport, young players can easily be injured when they are accidentally hit in the eye by an elbow or a finger. In baseball, a batter can be hit in the eye by a pitch, or a fielder may lose a ball in the sun or be unprepared for a line drive, resulting in injury. Think about it: your baseball player may wear a cup, chest protector, knee savers or other gear. Why wouldn’t you want to protect your child’s eyes? Some young pitchers can throw upwards of 70 mph, and that can cause serious, permanent damage to a child’s eye.
And it’s not just kids who are injured. Last month, Luis Salazar, a manager in the Atlanta Braves minor league system, was standing in the dugout during a spring training game when a foul ball off the bat of Brian McCann hit him in the eye. Salazar lost consciousness and collapsed, slamming his head on the rubberized surface of the dugout floor. Though it was extremely fortunate that he did not suffer brain damage, Salazar’s doctors could not save his left eye, which they were forced to remove. In the grand scheme of things, he was lucky; the incident very well could have been fatal. But it underscores the importance of eye protection for those who play sports.
Most sports leagues in the Treasure Valley do not require youth to wear eye protection. It’s a personal decision, left to the parents. However, you may want to consider protecting your players eyes when they play sports as the damage can be irreparable. You can find eyewear for nearly any activity. Although most Treasure Valley insurance plans won’t cover an extra pair of glasses for sports, it’s worth the investment, especially when you consider that more than 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries are preventable. So check with your league and your eye doctor to find out about your options. And if your child has already suffered an eye injury, be sure you protect his or her eyes, regardless of the cost.
Your best bet is protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses for sports like basketball, soccer, racquet sports, and field hockey. For sports like lacrosse, baseball, and ice hockey, consider purchasing a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield for the best protection. Regular eyeglasses or sunglasses will not provide enough protection.
And don’t forget to be careful during leisure activities, too. Studies show that fishing, a very popular activity here in the Treasure Valley, is the leading cause of sports-related eye injury. Once you bait that hook, be sure you’re stepping back and casting away from your eyes.
In the event of an eye-injury on the sports field, see an eye doctor or get to the emergency room as soon as possible. Don’t dismiss a minor eye injury as non-threatening. Have it checked out by a professional so you can know for sure.
Talk it up:
Do you wear eye protection when you play sports?
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