It’s back-to-school season, a time for fresh notebooks, new school clothes, auditions for the school play and tryouts for sports teams. But homework isn’t the only problem your kids face now that school has begun again: Experts warn that the new school year brings an increased risk for sports-related eye injuries.
Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, and most eye injuries in school-age children occur while playing sports, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some 100,000 sports eye injuries occur each year, with children making up nearly half of the cases.
Sports that particularly can lead to eye injuries include baseball, softball, soccer, boxing, basketball, lacrosse and fencing, explained pediatric eye specialists at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and the Wilmer Eye Institute.
“As training season begins, and as children resume practice, emergency rooms across the country may see an influx of eye injuries from sports – yet most of these injuries are highly preventable by wearing protective goggles,” explains pediatric ophthalmologist Michael X. Repka, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and deputy director of ophthalmology at Hopkins Children’s Center.
Safety eyewear is the key to preventing those eye injuries. In fact, appropriate, sports-specific eye PPE can prevent nine out of 10 injuries when worn consistently. And the stakes are high: While kids often can escape mild injuries, like lid bruises and corneal abrasions, without lasting damage, high-impact injuries can cause internal bleeding or fracture the bone around the eye, which may require surgery. Obviously, you want your kids to grow up with the gift of clear, healthy vision.
“Eye injuries at an early age can have serious and life-long consequences for the young athlete that go beyond missing a game or two and can sometimes lead to permanent eye damage and loss of vision,” Repka says.
Eye Protection Tips
Safety glasses, goggles, shields and eye guards may protect kids playing sports. But not just any pair of safety glasses or goggles will do for your young athlete. All protective eyewear must be sports-specific to fully protect the child, according to experts, and regular prescription glasses do not offer adequate protection for most sports.
Follow these tips to keep your child’s eye health in sight this school year:
- Ensure that your child wears protective eyewear during practice and games.
- Consult an ophthalmologist or an optometrist to determine which types of protective glasses are best suited for a particular sport.
- Make sure your child has regular eye screenings and exams, if she or he has a problem.
- Seek immediate medical attention if a child has any cuts or punctures to the eye; redness, itching or irritation; discharge or excessive tearing in one or both eyes; swelling of or around the eye; deep eye pain, pain behind the eyes or unexplained headaches; or floaters, flashes or partial loss of vision.
- Never rub the affected eye and do not try to remove any splinters or objects stuck in the eye; go to the emergency room instead.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children account for a third of all eye traumas requiring hospitalization. Don’t let your child become a part of that statistic – protect her eyes and see her through the school year safely.