More than 40,000 people a year suffer eye injuries while playing sports, according to Prevent Blindness America. However, 90 percent of these injuries can be prevented by using protective eye wear. It's important to remember that whatever game, whatever age, participants need to protect their eyes.

Eye injuries in sports happen as a result of direct contact with other competitors and from sports equipment such as bats, balls, pucks, rackets, darts and guns (even air guns).

According to the National Society to Prevent Blindness, the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in 5- to 14-year-olds is baseball; the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in 15- to 24-year-olds is basketball. In general, the sports with highest risk for sports-related eye injury for players not using protective equipment are basketball, racquetball, lacrosse, baseball and paintball. Sports that present a medium risk for sports-related eye injuries without the use of protective measures include tennis, football, golf and soccer.

The good news is that almost all eye injuries can be prevented by understanding safety practices and using the proper protective eyewear. Most protective eyewear for sports has protective requirements specified by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Among ASTM published standards are these:

ASTM F803 - "Eye Protectors for Selected Sports," which addresses racket sports, women's lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, baseball and soccer.
ASTM F1776-01 - "Eye Protective Devices for Paintball Sports."
ASTM F513-00 - "Eye and Face Protective Equipment for Hockey Players."

Remember that regular glasses do not provide enough protection when playing sports. Safety goggles with lensed polycarbonate protectors should be used for racquet sports or basketball. Batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields should be used for youth baseball. Helmets and face shields used when playing hockey should be approved by the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association.

Protective eyewear is only effective if it's used. Use should become a habit when playing any sport. Wearing protective eyewear will decrease the risk of eye injury and should be used no matter the age of the participants.

When purchasing protective eyewear, make sure the eyewear is specifically designed for that sport or other activity. Check the label on the product to verify that the product has been tested, approved and certified.

If an eye injury occurs, an eye-care professional should be consulted right away. Keep the injured person still and calm to avoid worsening the injury. For chemical injuries, rinse the eye with water (15 minutes) before transporting the person to medical care. Wash hands thoroughly before touching an irritated or injured eye. Never rub an eye that has a speck or other foreign material in it.

Eye injuries are the leading cause of visual impairment after eye disease. Prevent Blindness America estimates 90 percent of all eye injuries are preventable. Wearing protective eyewear can prevent most eye injuries from occurring.

Make vision a health and safety a priority. To protect against eye injury wear protective eyewear and make sure children use it, too.

For more information about vision conservation, visit the Tri-service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program Web site at http://dodvision.com/ or Prevent Blindness America at www.preventblindness.org/. To view ASTM standards, visit www.astm.org/Standard/index.shtml.

Page last updated Mon August 24th, 2009 at 10:30