April is National Youth Sports Safety Month, but our focus must be year round for the prevention of sports-related eye injuries. According to the National Eye Institute, “Eye injuries are a leading cause of blindness in children in the United States—and most of these injuries happen while kids are playing sports. Wearing the right protective eyewear can prevent 9 out of 10 sports-related eye injuries. Additionally, every 13 minutes an emergency room in the United States treats a sports-related eye injury.”
Eye safety is paramount for athletes and sports enthusiasts of all ages. Prevent Blindness America shared in an annual study that basketball and water sports accounted for the highest percentage of sports-related eye injuries. In a recent conversation with Jennifer Stewart, OD, she shared that she has even seen corneal abrasions from recreational water activities. Dr. Stewart is the chief vision officer & co-founder of Performance 20/20 and recipient of the prestigious Theia Award for Innovation, just to mention two of her many accolades and accomplishments. Dr. Stewart helps athletes of all ages enhance their sports performance through vision training while counseling them on the importance of sport safety eyewear to protect the eyes from injury. One very important point that she makes is protective sport eyewear isn’t just for those with an eyeglass prescription!
The sports vision and safety market present a big opportunity for the ECP to expand their services and capture new patients (both ametropes and emmetropes). Eventually all those emmetropes will be presbyopes, and voila, they are already your patient before needing prescription corrective eyewear. Dr. Stewart shares in another statement: “I’d like to change the paradigm shift in sports and protective eyewear. Where we often think of sports and safety eyewear as a second or third pair purchase, or even something optional—I’d like to challenge you to think of sports eyewear as essential as a primary pair of glasses. We also need to look beyond our typical idea of what an athlete is; this should include not only children who are playing sports competitively, but anyone stepping on a field, court or arena. This includes recreational athletes of all ages including adults and athletes with prescriptions or not.”
Adding sports vision and safety as a practice specialty and then promoting it across channels, online and in store is an opportunity to reduce sports-related eye injuries while increasing traffic in your practice.
• Deborah Kotob
Pro to Pro Director