Each year, roughly 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated in emergency rooms across the United States. However, about 90% of serious eye injuries can be prevented with protective eyewear. With this in mind, Cascade Eye & Skin Centers is encouraging everyone to observe Sports Eye Safety Month this April.
To kick off Sports Eye Safety Month, we want to share the most common eye injuries in athletes and tips for preventing them. Whether you are a professional, amateur, or recreational athlete – or the parent of a student-athlete – practicing proper eye care techniques could help preserve your vision and allow you to continue to play at your best.
Common Eye Injuries for Athletes
An eye injury may occur during any physical activity, but playing contact sports without proper eye protection greatly increases your risk. Basketball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in the US, followed by baseball, racquetball, and hockey. From pokes and scratches to bruises and foreign object injuries, it’s vital to wear protective eyewear when playing sports. There are several common eye injuries that athletes may experience, including:
Corneal abrasions occur when the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, is scratched or scraped. The cornea is one of the most sensitive parts of the eye and is responsible for focusing light as it enters the eye. Corneal abrasions may occur in a variety of ways, but they are most commonly caused by a foreign object entering the eye, such as dirt, dust, sand, or small debris. This can happen during sports activities, especially those that involve flying objects.
Blunt Eye Trauma
Eye injuries such as traumatic iritis, hyphema, and orbital fractures are typically a result of blunt force trauma to the eye. These injuries usually happen when an object hits or strikes the eye, causing damage to the eye itself or the surrounding tissue. Blunt eye trauma may occur in a variety of sports and recreational activities, particularly those involving contact, such as boxing, football, hockey, or basketball.
Penetrating Eye Injuries
Penetrating eye injuries are caused by objects that penetrate the eye and enter the eye cavity. While these injuries enter the eye, they usually do not cause an exit wound. These injuries are a serious concern in sports, as they may cause blindness. The risk of a penetrating injury can be mitigated by using protective gear, such as batting helmets with face guards or protective goggles.
In addition to using protective gear, it is imperative for athletes to be aware of the risk of penetrating eye injuries and to take appropriate precautions. This includes being mindful of your surroundings, using proper techniques, and avoiding risky or reckless behavior. If an athlete does suffer a penetrating eye injury, prompt medical attention is essential. Delaying treatment may increase the risk of permanent damage or even total vision loss. In some cases, surgery may be required to repair the damage to the eye.
While participating in outdoor sports and activities, you may be exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. UV radiation is known to damage the eyes and may cause a range of eye conditions, including cataracts, macular degeneration, photokeratitis (snow blindness), and pterygium. Therefore, if you’re out in the sun, wearing sunglasses or protective eyewear that blocks 99-100% of UV light is essential.
5 Tips for Protecting Your Eyes While Playing Sports
Between strains, sprains, tears, and bruises, there are numerous ways to get injured while playing sports. Unfortunately, eye safety is often neglected and overlooked. During Sports Eye Safety Month, we encourage everyone to take extra precautions to protect their eyes and prioritize eye care. The five tips below may help prevent eye injuries while playing sports:
1. Wear Proper Eye Protection
One of the best and easiest ways to prevent eye injuries is by wearing protective eyewear. Whether you’re playing contact sports (such as hockey and basketball) or participating in a recreational activity (such as tennis and golf), make sure to always wear protective glasses or goggles.
Eye protection may significantly reduce the risk of eye injuries. When choosing protective eyewear, look for lenses made of polycarbonate. Moreover, it is a good idea to use eyewear with a strap or other secure fit. Do not wear regular eyeglasses as they do not provide adequate protection and may break easily, causing further eye damage.
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
When participating in a sport or recreational activity, pay attention to your surroundings and be aware of potential hazards. Look out for flying objects, fast-moving balls, or other debris that could come into contact with your eyes. Although this may be difficult when you’re focused on the game, it could be the difference between a minor scratch and severe eye damage.
3. Know the Rules of the Game
Sports have specific rules in place to protect the safety of the participants. Make sure to follow all applicable rules, regulations, and safety guidelines when playing a sport. This may help you avoid potential eye injuries or other accidents. If needed, do some research before playing a sport to become familiar with its safety guidelines, or ask a coach or referee if you have any questions.
4. Have Your Eyes Checked Regularly
A regular eye exam is necessary to ensure proper eye care and health. Cascade Eye & Skin Centers recommends you get an eye exam every year to diagnose any potential vision problems and detect early signs of eye disease. Eye exams can also help determine if you need corrective eyewear or if your current prescription needs to be updated. Whether you are starting a new sport or continuing to participate in an old one, having your eyes checked frequently can help reduce the risk of eye injuries and optimize your eye care.
5. Don’t Leave Eye Injuries Untreated
If you sustain an eye injury, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Eye injuries can quickly progress and cause long-term vision impairment if left untreated. Although you may be tempted to continue with the game, it is crucial to get your eyes checked if you are experiencing pain, blurry vision, or any other discomfort. At Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, our specialists provide comprehensive eye care and treatment plans to address your concerns.
Protect Your Eyes this Sports Eye Safety Month
With Sports Eye Safety Month in full swing, it’s important to remember the impact sports can have on your eye health. No matter what sport you participate in, eye care should always be a top priority. Cascade Eye & Skin Centers is committed to helping you protect your eyes during your sports season.
Our experienced professionals are dedicated to providing you with the best possible eye care. We offer a wide array of services, including eye exams, specialized eyewear, and treatment for eye injuries. Don’t let your sports season take a toll on your eye health. Schedule an appointment with us during Sports Eye Safety Month and take advantage of our expertise in eye care.