Sports-Related Eye Injuries Blind Thousands of People Each Year
Florida ophthalmologists encourage athletes to wear eye protection as spring sports season begins
(Jacksonville, Fla) – As millions take to the playing field this spring, the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons warns the public that thousands of people are blinded by sports-related eye injuries. In support of Sports Eye Safety Month this April, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology along with the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds coaches, parents and athletes of the importance of wearing eye protection – whether for Little League or the Majors.
Of the 100,000 eye injuries resulting from sports each year, an estimated 42,000 people are treated in the emergency room, and 13,500 end up legally blind.[i] In fact, according to a January 2014 study of consumer product related injuries requiring emergency room treatment, sports equipment – including balls, bats, and rackets – was responsible for[ii]:
- 41 percent of emergency room visits for children age 10 to 14.
- 25 percent of emergency room visits for people age 15 to 24.
- 20 percent of emergency room visits for children age 5 to 9.
In addition to injuries from sports equipment, many also suffer eye injuries caused by another player’s errant finger or elbow to the eye.
Eye injuries resulting from athletic activities range from corneal abrasions (scratches on the surface of the eye) to the more serious, potentially blinding injuries, such as an orbital fracture (bones around the eye are broken) and detached retina (when the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye is pulled out of place). Fortunately, 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable by wearing protective eyewear.[iii]
The Florida Society of Ophthalmology provides the following sight-saving tips about sports-related eye protection:
- Youth who play sports should wear appropriate eye protection, such as polycarbonate lenses or masks that meet the requirements of the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) - even if the league does not officially require it.
- People who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear, as contacts offer no protection and glasses are not sufficient protection since lenses may shatter when hit by a projectile.
- To preserve the vision they have left, all functionally one-eyed athletes – those with one normal eye and the other eye with less than 20/40 vision, even when corrected with glasses or contacts – should wear appropriate eye protection for all sports.
- Functionally one-eyed athletes and those who have had an eye injury or surgery should not participate in boxing or full-contact martial arts because of the high risk of additional serious injury that could lead to blindness.
- For sports in which a facemask or helmet with eye protector or shield must be worn, such as football and lacrosse, it is strongly recommended that functionally one-eyed athletes also wear sports goggles that conform to the requirements of ASTM F803.
- Sports eye protection should be replaced when damaged or yellowed with age, as they may have become weakened and are no longer protective.
“Wearing protective eyewear while playing sports is a simple way to avoid injuries that could be detrimental to your child’s life,” stated Jaime H. Membreno, MD, President of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology. “Please remember that standard eyeglasses are not enough protection, and practicing this simple solution can prevent serious injuries.”
About the Florida Society of Ophthalmology
The mission of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology is to promote and to protect the medical specialty of ophthalmology through active participation in legislative advocacy and through providing continuing medical education and the dissemination of responsible information to its members, physicians and to the citizens of Florida to ensure the delivery of the highest standard of eye care throughout the state of Florida. For more information go to www.mdeye.org.