All athletes should protect their eyes when playing sports, and that doesn’t mean merely slapping on a pair of sunglasses, according to eye doctors at The Eye Clinic. Each year, an estimated 100,000 people are hurt by sports-related eye injuries, with approximately 13,500 of these injuries resulting in permanent vision loss. In support of Sports Eye Safety Month in April, The Eye Clinic doctors remind all athletes that the great majority of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided by simply wearing the proper protection.
The National Youth Safety Foundation, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association strongly recommend protective eyewear for all participants in sports in which there is a risk of injury. “The type of protective eyewear recommended varies by sport, but polycarbonate is the most shatter-resistant clear lens material and should be used in all safety eyewear,” says Dr. Lindsey Primeaux, optometrist with The Eye Clinic.
“The reason polycarbonate lenses are so strongly recommended is they are 20 times stronger than ordinary eyeglass material,” explains Dr. Primeaux. “They can withstand a projectile or ball traveling at 90 mph. Contact lenses offer no protection, and ordinary eyeglasses or sunglasses are insufficient because they can shatter upon impact and cut the eye.”
Researchers say that although protective eyewear cannot completely eliminate the risk of injury, use of appropriate eye protectors has been shown to reduce the risk of major eye injuries in sports by at least 90%.
Along with the recommendations, research has also assessed the eye-injury risk posed by various sports based on their popularity and incidence of eye injuries. Baseball and basketball were associated with the most eye injuries in athletes between ages five and 24. The risk levels and associated sports identified were:
High risk. Sports such as paintball, basketball, baseball/softball, cricket, lacrosse, squash, racquetball, fencing, boxing, and full-contact martial arts.
Moderate risk. Tennis, badminton, soccer, volleyball, water polo, football, fishing, and golf.
Low risk. Swimming, diving, skiing (snow and water), non-contact martial arts, wrestling, and bicycling.
Eye safe. Track and field (although javelin and discus have a small but definite eye-injury risk) and gymnastics.
Athletes can now choose from various types of sturdy, lightweight, effective and fashionable eyewear. And when frames have polycarbonate lenses and have been properly fitted by an eye care professional, eyewear does not hinder performance. Optics Unlimited at The Eye Clinic offers a full line of sports eyewear that can be customized for the person, their vision and the sport in which they are participating.
Dr. Primeaux says eye protection for each sport varies in fit and ability to protect against eye injury. She recommends consulting an experienced eye doctor for advice on selecting the most appropriate protective eyewear for the individual and their sport.
For more information about sports eye injuries or sports eyewear, contact The Eye Clinic or Optics Unlimited nearest you in Lake Charles, Sulphur, DeRidder, Moss Bluff or Jennings.