Dr. Paul Berman tells us how parents can keep their kids' eyes safe while playing sports.
Nine out of 10 sports-related eye injuries can be prevented, according to Prevent Blindness America. One of the best ways is to have the proper eyewear. Don't wear regular optical glasses or sunglasses during play. That may seem strange, but glasses that aren't rated for impact can actually cause more harm than good. Typical sports sunglasses do not provide protection. Instead, talk with your eye doctor about impact performance tested and approved sports frames and lenses. This eyewear is designed to take the impacts of sports without shattering. It is important to look for the indication that they are ASTM F803 approved - the group that certifies the frame and lens meets standards. It is a basic and important part of sports gear.
What types of sport-related eye injuries can occur?
Sports-related eye injuries can include:
-Corneal abrasion (painful scrape or scratch on the cornea)
-Fracture of the eye socket
-Traumatic cataract, causing blood to spill into the eye's anterior chamber
-Swollen or detached retina
Which sports have the most eye-related injuries?
Anything involving throwing, kicking or hitting a ball and any sport with swinging objects (baseball bat, hockey stick) could cause an eye-related injury. For younger children, baseball causes the most eye injuries. Overall, basketball is the most dangerous for adults. Don't forget, sports equipment can do damage, but also elbows, hands and feet can pack a punch, too. Soccer eye injuries are the fastest growing segment of sports eye injuries, as well.
At what age can children start wearing contacts instead of sports goggles? Are there any concerns with contact use?
Talk with your eye doctor; this is more of a responsibility and motivation issue than a sports issue. Even with contact lenses, safety glasses or goggles are recommended, because getting hit in the eye can still do damage with (or without) contacts. Using gear that directly covers the eyes provides the best protection.
If my child is underperforming on the field, could he or she have a vision problem?
Certainly, if your child has trouble seeing or doing other visual skills involving sports that could affect sports performance, he or she could have a vision problem. Some people just aren't coordinated, but if you think that there is an actual problem with the visual system, you should talk with your child's eye doctor during your next appointment.
Dr. Paul Berman is a VSP Vision Care optometrist based out of Hackensack, NJ.