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From the American Academy of Ophthalmology

Eye Protection is Essential for All Athletes

Sport-specific eyewear prevents devastating injuries

For Stephen Sacks, what started out as a routine basketball game his senior year of high school turned into a medical emergency. Stephen was a young basketball star who played years of hoops without any injuries. But when he was accidentally elbowed in the eye by a teammate, Stephen ended up with a large laceration on his left eyelid and a close encounter with permanent eye damage.

"After the knock to my eye, all I could see was a black haze," Stephen recalls. "I was rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the game, where I was told that I might have permanent damage to my left eye." Fortunately Stephan regained his vision three weeks later, but had to miss his last senior game because of the eye injury. He went on to play college basketball and has vowed to always wear protective eyewear while playing.

May is Healthy Vision Month, and through its EyeSmartTM campaign the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds the public that 40,000 people suffer from eye injuries related to sports every year. The Academy advocates the need for athletes to wear appropriate, sport-specific protective eyewear properly fitted by an eye care professional. Lenses made from polycarbonate materials provide the highest level of impact protection; they can withstand a ball or other projectile traveling at 90 miles per hour.

"Eye injuries from sports can be devastating, and the only way to prevent them is by wearing protective eyewear" said Monica L. Monica, MD, Ph.D., clinical correspondent for the Academy and Stephan's doctor. "Most people don't realize that basketball is one of the leading causes of eye injuries because of elbows and fingers hitting the eye."

In addition to abrasions of the cornea and bruises of the lids, sports injuries can include retinal detachments and internal bleeding. The most serious risks involve permanent vision loss along with infection. In addition, patients who have sustained eye injuries are at greater risk for developing glaucoma.

Student-athletes are not the only ones that can suffer from eye injuries, as seen with Phoenix Suns player Amaré Stoudemire; he will be out of the game for the rest of the basketball season because of a detached retina. Amare's injury will require a significant time to heal according to his doctor. In a recent statement, Stoudemire said that he will be wearing protective eyewear from here on out.

Many sports create risk for eye injuries; however, protection is available for most sports, including basketball, baseball, hockey, football, lacrosse, fencing, paintball, water polo, golf and others. "Wearing properly fitted protective eyewear will not harm your performance, and it may well save your sight," says Dr. Monica. Most sporting leagues don't require children to wear eye protection, so parents should take special care to ensure their children wear eye protection.

Learn about eye injuries, names of Eye M.D.s in your area or ask an Eye M.D. a question by clicking here. Consumers can also  submit questions about eye health to an ophthalmologist.

Source: American Academy of Opthamology


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