According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, every year, more than 40,000 Americans injure their eyes during sports and recreational activities such as baseball, basketball and tennis. Approximately one-third of those eye-injury victims are school-aged children.
Reecha Bahl, MD, ophthalmologist on staff at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, says playing sports is great for kids but it is very important to wear appropriate, sport-specific protective eyewear that is properly fitted by an eye care professional.
Sports-related eye injuries can include serious eye injuries such as retinal detachment, internal bleeding and inflammation in both the front and back of the eye, injuries to the cornea with compromise to the integrity of the eye, orbital bone fractures, and severe infections. In severe cases, it can lead to permanent vision loss.
The good news is most sports related eye injuries can be prevented using appropriate protective eye wear.
Dr. Bahl advises wearing eye protectors made with polycarbonate materials since they provide the highest level of protection. Proper eye protection is available for a variety of sports including hockey, football, lacrosse, and water polo, as well as racquetball, soccer and downhill skiing. Eye protection is also advised for those playing paintball.
In addition to sports, thousands of eye injuries can also occur from accidents at home, at play or in the car.
Common items that can cause serious eye injury include paper clips, pencils, scissors, bungee cords, wire coat hangers and rubber bands. Chemicals and sprays can also lead to injury and should be out or reach for small children. It is also advisable to avoid projectile toys such as darts, bows and arrows, and missile-firing toys as well as recreational activities involving bee bee guns, as the bee bee pellets can penetrate the globe/eye and orbit and lead to serious blinding injuries.
If an eye injury does occur, an ophthalmologist, primary care doctor, or emergency care physician should examine the eye as soon as possible. Delaying medical attention can cause the damaged areas to worsen and could result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
If an eye injury occurs, seek medical help and keep in mind the following:
- Do not touch, rub or apply pressure to the injured eye.
- Do not try to remove any object stuck in the eye. For small debris, lift eye lid and ask child to blink rapidly to see if tears will flush out the particle. If not, close the eye and seek treatment.
- Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
- In the event of chemical exposure, flush with plenty of water for at least 10 minutes at home before seeking medical attention.
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