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September Is Sports Eye Safety Month

The kids are back to school, and fall sports are underway.

According to the AOA ( American Optometric Association ), sports-related eye injuries are the number one cause of eye injuries in those aged sixteen years and younger. It is estimated that 90 percent of these injuries are preventable with the proper eyewear. Estimates by Prevent Blindness America place the number of sports-related eye injuries at 40,000 per year, with about one-third of those visits being children.

Regardless of whether an athlete has a vision problem or not, measures need to be taken to protect the eyes while participating in sports. The sports most frequently responsible for eye injuries are baseball, basketball, and racquet sports. One of the most dangerous sports to the eye is racquetball. The bony orbit around the eye typically limits a ball that hits the eye from compressing the orbit very far. However, the small diameter of a racquetball allows it to fit into the eye socket without being blocked by the bones around it, and excessive compression of the eye occurs. An eye injury from a racquetball may result in permanently losing the eye. Fingers, elbows, and collisions are sources of serious eye injuries during other sports.

What are the options for eye protection?

Protective eyewear designed for sports usage is an inexpensive way to insure against permanently damaging an eye.

While normal eyeglasses may provide some protection, most frames and lenses are not sturdy enough to withstand the severity of impacts that occur in sports. Safety goggles are ideal, as they are designed to minimize any visual disturbances while using them. They are made with materials that can withstand impacts and have lenses grooved so that they can only pop outward, away from the eyes. Many quality sports goggles also have side vents or anti-fog lenses so that they don’t cause problems when sweating. For sports already requiring a helmet, face shields should be used with the helmet to protect the eyes.

So I hurt my eye once, what’s the big deal?

Sustaining an eye injury puts one at greater risk for developing a traumatic cataract. Direct trauma to the eye significantly increases the chances of developing a sight-reducing cataract months or years after the injury occurred, regardless of age. Though cataracts can usually be surgically treated, if the trauma was severe enough to cause a cataract, most likely other permanent damage has occurred as well.

Have a Prescription? Contacts Can Help, Too…

Soft or rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses are an excellent way of addressing refractive errors of the eyes. While eyeglasses afford a small amount of eye protection compared to contact lenses, the glasses can break and cause more injuries unless the eyewear is safety approved for sports. Generally, soft contact lenses are preferred over rigid gas permeable lenses because the soft lenses are more forgiving in terms of comfort and stability on the eye during sports. While great for non-sporting activities, RGPs are more readily displaced off the center of the eye in contact sports and certain environments (dry or windy weather). They are also more uncomfortable when dust or debris gets into the eye. Soft lenses are not affected nearly as much by these external factors.

The biggest advantage contact lenses provide is unobstructed peripheral vision compared to eyeglasses. Furthermore, contact lenses are not susceptible to fogging, sweat, or raindrops the same way eyeglass lenses are. In higher prescriptions (4.00 diopters or more), the optical clarity through contact lenses is usually superior to eyeglasses. Since the contact lens stays placed centrally over the pupil during eye movements, the center of the eye is always looking through the “optical center” of the contact lens, providing the truest and clearest prescription. Looking through the peripheral areas of an eyeglass lens in higher prescriptions induces optical aberrations, and clarity is diminished because the center of the eyeglass lens is not always directly over the center of the eye.

At what age can my child begin wearing contacts?

There is no exact age that a child becomes “contact lens eligible.” Eye doctors routinely fit children of all ages in contact lenses. A child’s candidacy for contact lenses is largely a function of their own desire (not their parents’ desire) , their level of responsibility, and their ability to tolerate things in close proximity to their eyes, such as a finger inserting a contact lens. It is desirable to fit a young athlete in contact lenses as early as they are able to tolerate them, since contact lenses hold so many advantages over eyeglasses in sports vision. Bear in mind that the intangible advantage of increased confidence provided by contact lenses factors into sports performance as well. Today, with the availability of single use, daily disposable contact lenses, children find it even easier to use contact lenses.

Call us at (704)821-5009 or click hereto make an appointment to help fit your child with the very best in eye protection for his or her sport of choice.