Ophthalmologists Urge Eye Protection for Sport Participants
This month, the focus is on sports eye safety. Protecting our eyes is important whether one participates in professional or recreational sports. New research shows that about 30,000 people in the U.S. go to emergency departments each year with eye-related injuries.
These sports-related eye injuries are a substantially higher estimate than reported previously. This April during Sports Eye Safety Month, Glenn K. Davis, II and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) remind the public that the right protective eyewear is the best defense against eye injury.
Recreational and Professional Sports Benefit from Eye Safety
Before we chalk eye injuries up to those in professional sports, let’s remember that same risk exists with recreational sports. We teach young children learning baseball to keep their eyes on the ball. This advice is even more beneficial when wearing safety goggles!
The risk to our eyes does not end as children, however. Three sports accounted for almost half of all trips to the emergency room: basketball, baseball, and air/paintball guns. Balls and projectiles traveling at velocity can cause some significant eye injury.
A Closer Look: The Most Reported Sports Eye Injuries
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most reported sports eye injuries. Sports-related injuries can range from corneal abrasions and bruises on the lids to more serious, vision-threatening internal injuries. These internal injuries can include a retinal detachment and internal bleeding. As you can see, eye injuries are not something to shrug off easily.
Symptoms of a corneal abrasion include the feeling as if something is stuck in your eye. You may experience red, painful, and watery eyes, along with blurry or hazy vision. Being extra-sensitive to light is another symptom. Accurate diagnosis by an ophthalmologist is essential for proper treatment.
Treatments for corneal abrasion will depend on the extent of what the doctor finds in his or her examination. Some treatment options include wearing a patch over the injured eye, using moisturizing drops or ointment to soothe the eye or prevent infection, possible use of eye drops or a special contact lens to reduce pain and speed healing.
Bruises on the Lids (AKA ‘Black Eye’)
As with a bruise anywhere on the body, this describes the collecting of blood and other fluids in the space around an injury. Bruising on the lids and around the eye due to injury causes swelling and dark bruising in the tissue.
When there is an eye injury, have an ophthalmologist examine the bruising to rule out signs of a more serious injury. Primary concern would be bleeding in the eye (hyphemia), which can affect your cornea and vision. Severe injuries can also create an increase in pressure. The presence of black eyes after a head injury could indicate a skull fracture or other injury requiring medical care.
When the retina detaches from the back of the eye, this is a serious problem requiring an ophthalmologist exam right away. The blurry vision could mean you could lose sight in the eye. Early signs of a detached retina include seeing flashing lights “like seeing stars” all of a sudden. Another is noticing ‘floaters’ that look like lines in your field of vision, or if you notice what looks like a gray curtain. Be aware of shadows that might appear in your side vision.
Those most at risk for retinal detachment include those who are nearsighted or who had eye injury or surgery. If you take glaucoma medications, or have a family history of tears or detachment, this adds to the risk.
Beyond a ‘bloodshot’ appearance, seeing blood in the eye can be frightening for most people. Serious eye injury can affect vision, as we mentioned earlier. Internal bleeding in the eye is a sign that an ophthalmologist ought to examine. Be sure to discuss any previous injuries, eye surgery, or family history.
Eye Injury Can Be an Avoidable Risk of the Game
Participating in both recreational and professional sports come with elements of risk. Beyond the strategy of the contest, there are real chances of physical harm. This risk is there no matter how much of an athlete one may be.
With proper eyewear and precautions, serious eye injury does not have to put you out of commission. Take the advice of those who study the serious side of sports and tend healing the injuries. Ophthalmologists, the physicians specializing in medical and surgical eye care, remind the public that most sports-related eye injuries are avoidable.
Protective Eyewear is the Best Defense Against Eye Injury
The best defense against eye injury is the use of protective eyewear by every player of any sport. It is one thing to hold a shield and another to actively use it. Here are some tips for both the professional athlete and the Little League star to stay safe:
- Athletes should wear sports eye protection that meets requirements set by appropriate organizations.
- Parents should make sure that children wear eye protection. Most often, those who sustain sports-related eye injuries are 18 years old or younger.
- Eye protection can weaken with age and may no longer provide adequate protection. Consider replacing when damaged or yellowed.
- For basketball, racquet sports, soccer, and field hockey, wear protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses.
- Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear. Contacts offer no protection and glasses do not provide enough defense.
- Professional athletes should also wear sports goggles that meet national standards.
The Ultimate Sports Eye Safety Feature
We cannot stress enough the importance of using the proper safety gear when playing sports. Professional and recreational participants alike are all at risk for eye injury. The ultimate safety feature for your eyes is wearing proper eye protection consistently.
If you are an athlete or sports enthusiast, be sure to speak with Dr. Davis today to learn more ways to stay safe. The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website has additional information to learn more.