By Borana Tan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Eugene, Ore.September 17, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Sept. 17, 2013) - Dumbfounded, I stood on the racquetball court, trying to stop the blood flowing down my cheek. I'd just been hit in the eye with a ball and wondered how in the heck it happened. I had eyewear on, so why wasn't I protected? It turns out I was the stupid one. Instead of wearing approved racquetball safety glasses/goggles, I opted to wear my prescription glasses. I assumed they'd suffice. Besides, it was supposed to be a quick game with three experienced players. Little did I know that I'd pay the price for my assumption.
It was my serve and I gave it everything I had. I thought the serve was short, so I turned my head right to announce it. Apparently, I wasn't loud enough because one of my opponents swung his racquet with full force at the ball. As I turned my head, I saw the tiny blue ball zooming toward me. I tried to duck, but I lost my footing and fell backward as the ball skimmed my left eye with enough force to pop out my eyeglasses lens. The unstrapped eyewear flew off my face and onto the floor.
I heard pieces of glass scattering everywhere. "Crap," I silently said to myself. "These are my only pair of glasses -- and an expensive pair at that!" I wondered how I was going to drive home without my glasses because, at the time, I was almost legally blind with 20/200 vision. I was pretty upset about my predicament.
As I gathered my thoughts and blindly searched for my glasses, I felt warm streams of something running down my face. "Don't cry, wuss," I thought. But after I wiped my cheek and realized I was bleeding, I blacked out. The lens had cut me just millimeters below my eyebrow.
My stupidity got me five stitches and a black eye. The most painful aspect of the incident, though, was the $300 I had to shell out for a new pair of glasses. The jokes and ribbing from my friends and family weren't fun either. It's a lesson I won't soon forget.
My advice to anyone that's ready to step onto the racquetball court is simple: Always wear approved racquetball safety glasses/goggles! Also, when playing, try bringing your racquet up to your face (about eight inches) and look through the strings. Watch the ball throughout its entire path, from your racquet to the front wall. Try not to completely turn your whole body around, but just enough for a visual, until the ball hits your opponent's racquet. Once they hit it, bring down the racquet. This may sound like an odd technique, but believe me, it's a much better than a trip to the emergency room.
Personal protective equipment serves a purpose and isn't meant to be inconvenient. Don't be a schmuck. Wear the proper PPE. You'll be glad you did!