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September is Sports Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month

Eye Injuries in Sports: Common But Preventable

May is Healthy Vision Month, which is a perfect time to remind parents and children about the importance of making eye safety a part of their sports game plan.  

The reason? Well, for starters, because sports-related eye injuries are a serious health problem:

  • There are 100,000 sports-related eye injuries every year with 42,000 requiring emergency care (one every 13 minutes)
  • Approximately 1 in 50 Little League players will sustain an eye injury that requires attention.
  • Basketball is the leading cause of eye injuries in those aged 15 to 24.
  • 43 percent of the injuries are to children ages 14 and younger; 72 percent are to those aged 25 and younger.
  • Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in school-aged children; most are sports-related.
  • Eye injuries can include painful corneal abrasions, blunt trauma and penetrating injuries, inflamed iris, fracture of the eye socket, swollen or detached retinas, traumatic cataract and blood spilling into the eye's anterior chamber.
  • The financial impact of sports-related eye injuries is significant, costing between an estimated $175 to $200 million annually.
  • One in eight victims of severe eye injury due to sports initiates legal proceedings against parties that are assumed to be responsible.

Joint effort

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the National Eye Institute (a government agency part of the National Institutes of Health, and the sponsor of Healthy Vision Month) all strongly recommend protective eyewear for all those who play sports in which there is a risk for eye injury.

For its part, the American Optometric Association encourages prevention of sports-related eye injuries by addressing an individual athlete's needs, identifying monocular athletes and informing patients of the need for protective eyewear.

Prevent Blindness America advises parents to ask their eye care professional what type of eye protection he or she recommends for every sport in which their child participates.

Eye injuries are preventable

Fortunately, 90 percent of all sports-related eye injuries can be prevented just by wearing the proper eye protection. Lenses should be made of polycarbonate and have an American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) label, indicating they meet the standards of the ASTM for the specific sport. Polycarbonate eyewear is 10 times more impact resistant than other plastics, according to the National Eye Institute.

"The good news is that sports-related eye injuries are easily preventable just by simply wearing the correct eye protection," said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. "Unfortunately, only 15 percent of children and 33 percent of adults reported that they consistently do that. We need parents to get in the game of safety and show our kids how important it is to protect our eyes now to help insure a lifetime of healthy vision."

"Through educating coaches, parents and children we hope to put an end to unnecessary blindness and vision loss from sports-related injuries," added Parry. "By encouraging our kids, leading by example, and demanding their safety, we hope to help ensure a lifetime of healthy vision."


Sources: Prevent Blindness America; National Eye Institute; The Coalition to Prevent Sports Eye Injuries, National Eye Institute

Most recently updated May 1, 2016