Sporting Great Eye Safety this Spring

Cornea // Eye Health // News // Oculofacial // Patient Care // Apr 14 2017

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recognizes April as National Sports Eye Safety month to draw attention to the numerous injuries that occur each year due to lack of, or insufficient use of, proper eye safety equipment. The Academy states that 90 percent of all eye injuries – sports related and otherwise – can be prevented by wearing protective eyewear. The reality is that only 35 percent of the respondents, according the Academy’s annual survey, say they wear protective eyewear to perform repairs or home maintenance; but even fewer do so to play sports.

As the spring sports season kicks off with soccer, baseball, tennis and softball, everyone playing, coaching, or spectating these sports should be vigilant about how to prevent and recognize eye injuries that can occur.

Here are some tips on what to look for:

  • The person is in obvious pain and/or has trouble seeing
  • The person has a cut or torn eyelid
  • One eye does not as well as the other
  • One eye is sticking out compared to the other
  • The eye has an unusual pupil size or shape
  • There is blood in the clear part of the eye
  • There is something under the eyelid that can’t be easily removed

As each sport is different and carries different risks, it is important to do your research to learn more. Each sport’s governing body usually has available any specific requirements or standards recommended for safe pursuit of the sport. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) also provides similar information for eye safety.

The AAO lists the most frequent sports causing eye injuries as baseball, basketball and in racquet sports. Boxing and full-contact martial arts carry a very high risk or serious or blinding eye injuries.

Following is a list of the recommended eye protection by the AAO for common sport activities:

  1. Baseball, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse – Polycarbonate helmet with a face mask or wire shield (where appropriate certified by the sport’s certification council or similar entity)
  2. Basketball, Racquet Sports, Soccer, Field Hockey – Protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses (choose ones that have been tested to meet ASTM standards or that pass the CSA racquet sports standard.
  3. Boxing – There is no satisfactory eye protection (though thumbless boxing gloves may reduce the number of eye injuries)
  4. Swimming – Swimmers should consider wearing swim goggles with a UV-protective coating.  Contact lenses are not recommended in pools or hot tubs.  Microscopic organisms living in pools, hot tubs and lakes can cause infections in contact lens wearers.  Purchasing goggle prescription inserts is the safest method of vision correction.  Once out of the pool, don UV-protective sunglasses and wear a hat with a bill over your eyes.  Apply sunscreen to your face before and after swimming but not close to the eyes as sunscreen stings the soft tissues of the eye.

The most important thing is to have fun while playing these spring sports, but we also want everyone to be safe while enjoying themselves. Be alert and always ask your doctor if you have questions on injury prevention or treatment of your eyes – we’re cheering for you!