Eye injuries among children playing sports
- There are more than 100,000 sports-related eye injuries in the United States each year;
- Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children;
- Most eye injuries in children are sports-related, accounting for more than a quarter of all eye injuries to children aged 11 to 14;
- Children under age 15 account for 43 percent of all sports and recreational eye injuries;
- Of the estimated 40,000 cases of eye injuries causing blindness in the injured eye, about one third were suffered playing sports;
- Most sports-related eye injuries are caused by blunt objects;
- Trauma from objects such as hockey sticks, ski poles, or paintballs that are smaller than the eye socket can cause devastating injuries; and
- Objects larger than the eye can still injure, as they deform on impact. These injuries tend to be less serious, and most often occur in baseball, basketball, racket sports, and soccer.
Eye injuries by sport
- The sports with the highest risk of eye injuries are baseball, basketball, boxing, fencing, hockey, lacrosse, full-contact martial arts, paintball, racquetball, softball, and squash;
- Baseball has the highest number of sports-related eye injuries in children, with the highest incidence among 5- to 14-year-olds. Approximately one-third of baseball-related eye injuries result from being struck by a pitched ball; other common causes of eye injuries are attempting to field a batted ball or catch a thrown ball.
- Basketball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injury in athletes age 15 to 24; the odds of an eye injury for basketball players are 1 in 10;
- Soccer-ball related eye injuries in soccer disproportionately affect young players;
- Racquet sports (badminton, table tennis, tennis, racquetball, squash) are a leading cause of eye injuries;
- Eye injuries in paintball are common among children, with an alarming number resulting in permanent visual impairment.
Most sports-related eye injuries preventable
- As many as 9 out of 10 of all sports-related eye injuries can be prevented by wearing protective eye-wear;
- Shatterproof goggles, constructed of non-breakable 3mm polycarbonate twenty time stronger than ordinary eyeglasses, should be worn for racquet sports and basketball;
- Face shields meeting ASTM standard F 910 (Face guards For Youth Baseball) attached to approved helmets are strongly recommended for youth baseball batters and baseball runners. Recent studies among high school baseball athletes have led to a call for infielders and pitchers to wear face shields;
- Hockey players should wear helmets and face shields approved by the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association
- The American Academy Of Ophthalmology says eye-wear should be mandatory for children participating in school-related or community-sponsored athletic events.
Sources: Numerous, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, Policy Statement: Baseball and Softball. Pediatrics 2012;129(3):842-856. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3593)(accessed February 26, 2012).
Updated February 26, 2012