Parents take every known precaution to protect their child from injury and harm. It’s imperative that they are alerted to the high prevalence of sports-related eye injury in children, and that we, their trusted eyecare professionals, recommend appropriate eye protection for the specific sport in which the child participates.
According to the National Eye Institute, sports injury is the number one cause of blindness in children in the U.S. This is an alarming statistic especially considering it is estimated that 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries are preventable if proper protective eyewear is worn.
Sports-related eye injuries disproportionally affect children. Prevent Blindness America states that most sports-related eye injuries occur in children of school age with 43 percent of them being 14 years or younger, and that the majority of eye injuries occur when protective eyewear is not worn.
I was surprised to learn that most youth sports leagues don’t require eye protection for children when playing sports, according to Paul Berman, O.D., F.A.A.O, and Chairman of The Coalition to Prevent Sports Eye Injuries. What’s wrong with this picture? The following is an excerpt from the Center for Disease Control website, illustrating how sports-related eye injuries are overlooked: “Gear up. When children are active in sports and recreation, make sure they use the right protective gear for their activity, such as helmets, wrist guards, knee or elbow pads.” How is it possible that there’s not one word on a Web page dedicated to sports injuries and safety about sports-related eye injuries or appropriate protection? In the worst case, a severe sports eye injury can rob a child of their sight in an instant, or they can experience painful corneal abrasions, fractured eye socket, detached retinas, traumatic cataract, hematomas and more.
Parents and coaches must be the guardians of children’s eyes. We must arm them with the startling statistics to spur them to insist on protective eyewear for any child participating in sports activities. Our responsibility is to assure that appropriate ASTM labeled sports protective eyewear and eye guards for the specific sports activity are recommended and dispensed. Parents need to know that regular eyeglasses and sunglasses won’t protect the eye from a sports injury and can result in more severe injury.
Check out this month’s SunVision for a free CE course “Protecting Our Amazing Eyes” sponsored by iCoat to learn more about protective eyewear.