According to the National Eye Institute, the majority of eye injuries in school-aged children occur while playing sports. Even a small collision can lead to sight-threatening injuries, such as a scratched cornea, fractured eye socket, retinal detachment, or bleeding on the eye.
Thankfully, these injuries are easily preventable. “The use of protective eye wear can prevent up to 90 percent of all sports-related eye injuries,” says Dr. Rachel Hollenbeck of Grand Rapids Ophthalmology’s Greenville office. “That’s why I tell my patients that everyone who plays a sport should wear proper eye protection — not just kids who wear glasses or contact lenses.”
Dr. Hollenbeck’s advice for protecting your kids’ eyes when they play sports:
Assess your risk
The sports with highest risk of eye injury are those with balls, racquets or flying objects, such as baseball/softball, lacrosse, ice hockey, and tennis. Pokes and jabs from fingers and elbows can also cause eye injuries, so football, basketball, and water sports have very high injury rates too.
Get the right eye protection
Goggles, safety glasses, eye guards, full face protection — all sports have different visual demands. Ask your eye doctor about the eye protection designed specifically for your sport. (Most protective eyewear can accommodate both prescription and non-prescription lenses.)
All sports eye protection should meet the following standards:
- Constructed of highly impact-resistant plastic or polycarbonate
- Rubber padding cushions the frame around the head or nose area
- Meets the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard
- Protects eyes from UV rays (if used for outdoor sports)
A word on contact lenses
Contact lenses can certainly improve your child’s vision and provide the good peripheral vision that is necessary for many sports. Just make sure that your child is mature enough to care for and wear their contact lenses responsibly. And remember: contact lens wearers still need well-fitted, appropriate eye protection!
4 ways parents and coaches can protect student athletes’ vision:
- Provide children with well-fitted protective eyewear that is appropriate to their sport — and make sure they wear it!
- Encourage schools and leagues to adopt a policy on protective eyewear.
- Set an example by wearing protective eyewear whenever you engage in sports.
- Make sure children get regular complete eye exams. Detecting and treating vision problems early — with contact lenses or glasses — is an easy way to enhance sports performance.
Grand Rapids Ophthalmology provides the most advanced technologies available, delivered by a committed, caring and dedicated team of doctors and staff. We are here for the lifetime of you and your family’s eye care needs.