Did you know that every year, over 40% of all eye injuries are attributed to participation in sports and athletics? Each year, there are over 600,000 eye injuries every year, with over 40,000 injuries requiring emergency room attention, with 1/3 of the victims being children. With statistics like these, it’s surprising that eye injuries aren’t more widely discussed these days. April is national sports eye safety month, so what better time is there to discuss sports-related eye injuries?
While many athletes may see injuries as a temporary inconvenience, eye injuries are not as easy to recover from, and many result in permanent vision impairment, or blindness. Since eye injuries are so difficult to recover from, it’s crucial to protect your eyes using the proper equipment, the right precautions, and practicing caution around other participants.
Best Ways to Prevent Sports Related Eye Injury
While certain sports such as soccer and volleyball don’t pose particular direct risk of eye injury, wearing protective sport goggles never hurts as collision with another competitor is always a possibility. For high impact sports, helmets, shatter-resistant glasses and goggles are all highly important. Many eye injuries result from fractures of the scull surrounding the eye, which are preventable by wearing helmets and proper equipment. Wearing shatter resistant glasses prevents potential lens shards from impacting the eye upon collision.
For people who don’t have 20/20 vision, it’s crucial to wear proper vision correction while participating in athletics. Not wearing your glasses or contacts while playing sports not only can lead to injury, but also is attributed to decreased performance. Similar to having proper vision correction, wearing sunglasses in bright environments prevents ultra-violet rays from damaging your eye. Many sports enthusiasts feel that contacts are better for athletes as they correct vision without risk of falling off, or shattering upon impact.
Sports That Pose an Increased Risk of Eye Injury
- Basketball: Many choose to wear goggles, since getting a finger in the eye is not an uncommon occurrence when fighting for a ball. Wearing shatter-resistant glasses is highly important for basketball players, as facial collisions are quite frequent while playing basketball.
- Baseball: Batters risk cranial fractures and eye damage from getting struck by a ball moving faster than 90 mph. Additional to impact damage, outfielders frequently spend long amounts of time looking into direct sunlight while trying to field the ball. Wearing proper helmets and sport sunglasses helps prevent baseball injury.
- Hockey: Even more than basketball, hockey players frequently experience physical collisions, which can result in eye damage if not wearing a proper mask. The puck itself poses a significant risk of injury if one is hit in the face with it. Wearing a proper mask is the best means to prevent hockey related injury.
- Football: While professional and organized football players don’t commonly experience eye injuries due to the helmets, many children and teens experience injury from backyard football played without helmets. Playing touch football and wearing helmets during contact football is very important in protecting against injury.
- Lacrosse: Similar to football, organized lacrosse players don’t frequently experience injuries, but backyard and playground play without protective masks will often result in head and eye injury. Lacrosse sticks and even the lacrosse ball can easily injure another competitor if protective helmets and masks aren’t worn.
- Fencing: Injury potential from fencing is rather obvious, as any hard and pointy object can easily result in eye injury if a proper mask isn’t worn. Never participate in any type of fencing without a proper helmet and face mask.
- Paintball: Similar to fencing, the potential for injury is rather obvious without wearing protective masks. Paintballs may not damage your body when they hit, but your eyes are much more sensitive than any other part of your body, and can easily be damaged upon a paintball impact. Be sure to wear a mask when playing paintball to prevent injury.
- Water Polo: Water polo is somewhat similar to basketball, in that an opponent’s finger poses the greatest risk to your eye. Additional to an opponent’s finger, excess chlorine can dry out your eyes and is not healthy overall. Wearing swim-goggles will help prevent many injuries that can occur playing water polo.
- Racquetball: Playing raquetball isn’t typically dangerous, but the ball itself can injure your eye if it hits you directly at a high enough velocity. One mistake many racquetball players make is wearing standard non-shatter proof glasses. Make sure you have contact lenses or durable eye wear while playing racquetball.
- Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding: Most important to skiing and boarding is to wear protective goggles, as your eyes are frequently exposed to direct sunlight for extended durations. Additionally, goggles shield your eyes from high altitude wind, snow, allow you to see obstacles better while skiing, and even provide warmth to your face.