Each year, an estimated 600,000 eye injuries related to sports occur, with 40,000 people going to the ER. Approximately one-third of these occur in children, yet the number of children who use protective eyewear (safety glasses or goggles) is relatively low. As advocates for our patient’s vision health, it’s our duty as optometrists to ensure our patients are educated on the importance of sports vision safety.
The highest risk sports our patients participate in are racquetball, tennis, handball, ice hockey, archery, baseball/softball, fencing, boxing, badminton, field hockey, karate and any other sport with a projectile. Discussing a patient’s active hobbies outside of work is important to identify vision risks and recommend protection. Beyond these sports, patients also face risk in sports that are less commonly thought of as having potential vision injuries such as cycling (wind, dirt), basketball (elbow in eye), golf (sun, wind), rock climbing, trapshooting, skiing (sun), water sports (sun, wind), and fishing.
In terms of vision protection, the American Optometric Association recommends professionally fitted, prescription or non-prescription polycarbonate lenses. All sports protective eyewear should meet the impact standards of the ASTM International, a global standards organization. Options include polarized and tinted lenses, ultraviolet lens coatings for outdoor sports, form-fitting contoured designs, lens shapes to protect peripheral vision, goggles and lenses that can fit under helmets and other headgear, and rubber nosegrips for comfort and security. Parents should take special care to ensure their children’s vision protection aid fits correctly now, rather than sizing up so a child can “grow into it.” Loose or large vision protection can do more harm than good.
Keeping a competitive edge and ensuring safety while playing sports starts with vision. Sharp, clear vision allows participants to see the field of play, other players, and objects clearly, perform to the best of their ability, and avoid injury. An annual eye exam should be a part of sports participants’ fitness regime – both to ensure vision acuity but also to discuss sports vision safety with their eye doctors. In 2018, Think About Your Eyes will continue to remind patients to schedule an annual eye exam with their eye doctors. I’m proud to support the campaign that is supporting the profession of optometry as well as overall vision health and safety to all. n
Lynn F. Hellerstein, OD, FCOVD, FAAO, past-president COVD is the author of 50 Tips to Improve Your Sports Performance and one of 19,000 doctors who support Think About Your Eyes, the vision industry’s national public awareness campaign about annual eye exams and overall vision health. First Vision Media Group is a media partner of Think About Your Eyes.