Protective eyewear can prevent approximately 90% of sports-related eye injuries in children.
Summer is around the corner, and with it, sports. Kids fill their days at camp, in the pool and riding bikes. While sunscreen is often on the list, vision protection is too often missing. Sports contribute to 42,000 emergency room visits for eye injuries alone, more than 13,000 of which lead to permanent vision loss.
Basketball and baseball generate the most injuries, followed by racket sports such as tennis and badminton. While a ball hit by a bat is three and a half times more likely to cause injury than a pitched ball, eye injuries in sports go beyond flying projectiles. Swimming, boxing and bicycling all pose risks.
Protective eyewear can prevent approximately 90% of sports-related eye injuries in children, so the need to educate patients is great. The first step lies with optometrists building relationships with patients. Parents and children need to understand that eye safety should be a requirement for most sports. Spend time at each annual eye exam getting to know patients and their hobbies, especially with pediatric patients who often change hobbies and sports every few months. Ask if they are aware of the sports safety precautions they should take. If not, educate them. Continue to stress the importance of an annual eye exam, and point out that correcting any refractive error or binocular vision problems can increase their performance on the field or court while reducing their risk of injury.
Optometrists can also educate their community. Talk to school nurses and local parent-teacher organizations about educating school sports teams and coaches on the importance of protecting vision.
Consider even being the “team optometrist” to safeguard the vision of a group of young and impressionable athletes.
It all starts with an annual eye exam and continues with taking the time to get to know patients and their specific needs. It could save their vision.
Ann Hoscheit, OD, is a consultant with EyeBridge Consulting Associates and provides patient care at Cherry-ville EyeCare, Cherryville, NC.
Sandi Farnham, OD, provides primary care with an emphasis on binocular/sports/pediatric vision at Advanced Family Eye Care, Denver, NC. They are among the more than 19,000 optometrists listed on the Think About Your Eyes online locator. First Vision Media Group is a media partner of Think About Your Eyes.