Posted by: Carolinas Center for Sight in Eye Health

Carolinas Centers for Sight, P.C. would like to make you aware that each year, tens of thousands of sports and recreation-related eye injuries occur.  The good news is that 90 percent of serious eye injuries are preventable through the use of appropriate protective eyewear.  Whatever your game, whatever your age, you need to protect your eyes!

Since the risk of eye injury can vary depending on the activity, make sure the level of eye protection your family uses is appropriate for the type of activity.  Sports are broken down into four groups based on the risk of sustaining an eye injury:

  1. High-risk:  Baseball, paintball, basketball, racquetball, hockey, boxing and softball.
  2. Moderate-risk:  Tennis, soccer and golf
  3. Low-risk:  Non-racket sports without high-speed balls or close aggressive play, which includes swimming and cycling
  4. Safe sports:  Gymnastics, track and field

Regular eyeglasses do not offer proper eye protection. Any eyewear worn during sporting activities should have polycarbonate lenses, which are stronger, lighter and more shatter resistant than other lenses.  Appropriate protective eyewear is the best defense against an eye injury.

Parents, teachers, school nurses and coaches should learn about the eye injury risks associated with specific sports before allowing children to participate.  High risk contact sports such as boxing should be discouraged since adequate eye protection does not yet exist for this sport. Children should only be enrolled in organized sports through school districts, community/recreation centers and park districts where adults supervise all sports activities.  

Adults should familiarize themselves with the warning signs of an eye injury and know when to seek treatment.  Trauma to the eye, sports-related and otherwise, can cause temporary discomfort and even permanent vision loss.  Such trauma can increase the risks for certain eye diseases and disorders including cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy.  When left untreated, damage done by eye trauma may have far-reaching consequences, making it impor-tant that you seek care from an eye care professional as soon as possible

following the eye injury.  This is equally true when no immediate symptoms are present.  Many underlying problems, including internal bleeding, can be asymptomatic for a time, but when not addressed quickly the long-term damage can be devastating.

Eye guards designed for use in racquet sports are now commonly used for basketball and soccer and in combination with helmets for football, hockey and baseball.  Eye guards should fit securely and comfortably and allow the use of a helmet if necessary.  If you wear prescription glasses, you can get prescription eye guards.  If you are a person with only one eye that sees well, you should always wear sports eye guards.  In order to be assured that your eyes are protected properly, it is always important to purchase sports protective eyewear labeled as ASTM F803 approved. This eyewear is performance tested to give you the highest levels of protection.

Do not buy sports eye guards without lenses.  Only “lensed” protectors are recommended for sports use.  Make sure the lenses either stay in place or pop outward in the event of an accident.  Check the packaging to see if the eye protector you select has been tested for sports use.  Also check to see that the eye protector is made of polycarbonate.  All sports eye guards should be padded or cushioned along the brow and bridge of the nose.  This padding will prevent the eye guards from cutting your skin.  Always try on the eye protector to determine if it is the right size. Try adjusting the strap and make sure it is not too tight or too loose.  Until you get used to wearing a pair of eye guards, it may feel strange, but bear with it.  It is a lot more comfortable than an eye injury.

Another important topic for eye safety is fireworks.  While the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and other holidays are times of joy and celebration, thousands of people are injured by fireworks.  Almost half of those injured are children and teenagers.  And, over a thousand of these are eye injuries.  Fireworks can cause devastating and life-changing eye injuries that range from thermal burns of the eye, bleeding in the eye, retinal detachment, and even a ruptured globe and blindness.  

Here are guidelines for avoiding eye injuries related to fireworks:

  • Wear eye protection when lighting fireworks.
  • Do not allow children to play with fireworks. If you do give them sparklers, make sure they keep them away from their face and hold them at arm’s length from the body.
  • Only use or purchase legal fireworks that are manufactured and labeled by a legal fireworks manufacturer.
  • Never use fireworks of any type inside a house or building.  Fireworks are for outdoor use only.
  • Never attempt to relight or blow out a firework.

If you suffer an eye injury due to fireworks, seek help immediately and do not rub the eye, put ointment into or on the eye, apply any pressure to the eye or attempt to rinse out the eye.

Carolinas Centers for Sight, P.C. is an adult medical/surgical eye care practice located at 400 North Cashua Drive. Call 843-664-9393 for an appointment.  

Please note that CCFS does not offer contacts, eye glasses or eye safety equipment. These items can be purchased from area optometrists.