From team sports like baseball and softball starting up, to impromptu basketball pickup games and golfing, it’s a fun time of year! With the increase in activities, it is important to review the most common eye injuries in sports and doctors’ recommendations for how to keep your and your family members’ eyes safe during sports.
What Sports Pose a Higher Risk?
While injuries can occur in any sport, there are certainly those that are considered higher risk. Based on research shared by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), basketball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries, followed by baseball, softball, airsoft rifles, pellet guns, racquetball, and hockey.
Because of the higher risks these sports pose, proper gear and eyewear protection are that much more critical. However, it can be confusing to know which eyewear is correct because there are many options currently available. We sometimes hear from patients that they do not need eye protection for sports, which is a common misconception.
Why Wear Eye Protection?
According to the AAO, each year an estimated 100,000 people are hurt by sports-related eye injuries. Of those injuries, about 13,500 result in permanent vision loss.
Different sports require different protective eyewear, so it’s important to educate yourself – and talk to your eye doctor – before beginning a sport. For example, regular eyeglasses do not provide adequate eye protection, and certain lens materials can cause more damage if they shatter.
The encouraging news is that about 90% of sports-related eye injuries could be prevented by wearing the correct protective eyewear. So, what should you choose?
What Is the Correct Protective Eyewear?
For sports like basketball, racquetball, soccer, and field hockey, AAO recommends protective sports glasses with impact-resistant plastic – called polycarbonate lenses. It is also recommended that the eyewear you choose has been tested and meets the standards of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) or has passed the CSA (College Squash Association) racquet sports standard.
If you are participating in sports involving snow or water – like skiing, for example – wear protective glasses or goggles that have UV (100% UVA & UVB, or “UV400”) protection to shield eyes from the harmful spectrum of sunlight. Some contact lens brands advertise UVA and UVB protection as a feature of their lenses, but these will not block 100% of UVA and UVB rays; sunglasses should still be worn with contact lenses for UV protection outdoors.
Sunglass lenses that are polarized are especially helpful, as they block horizontal light (such as the bright reflections from the surface of snow or water), which acts to increase visual comfort and clarity.
A full list of protective eyewear requirements and guidelines can be found on the AAO website. (Link below.)
Should I Buy Prescription Glasses/Safety Glasses/Goggles Online?
In a study performed by the American Optometric Association, The Vision Council, and Optical Laboratories Association, 200 pairs of prescription glasses were ordered from online retailers. Of these 200 pairs, only 154 were received. Overall, 44.8% of these pairs were filled with incorrect prescriptions or posed a safety issue. All lenses were tested for impact resistance (as outlined by the FDA)- of these, 19% of adult lenses and 25% of children’s lenses failed impact resistance testing.
Additionally, prescription glasses ordered online are not professionally fit by an optician. Specifically, opticians measure the interpupillary distance (PD) and major reference point (MRP) that serve to properly center your prescription so that you will see through your glasses as your doctor intended.
As with most other products, you get what you pay for. Unlike most other products, your prescription glasses/safety glasses/goggles serve to protect your or your child’s vision – a major way in which we experience our lives, a major factor in your child’s ability to learn. Is it worth the cost to purchase professionally-fit eyewear that meets the FDA’s minimal safety standards? Absolutely!
What Should I Do if I Get Injured?
If you or a loved one suffers an eye injury while playing a sport, call your eye doctor immediately. They will be able to provide guidance and care recommendations remotely or determine if the injury requires immediate medical attention.
Common eye injury symptoms to look out for include:
- Injury to the eyelid, such as a cut or tear
- Difficulty seeing
- Persistent pain in the eye, including light sensitivity
- Changes in eye movement or orientation
- Unusual pupil shape or size
- Foreign body sensation in the eye
As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding the health and safety of your eyes, always speak to an eye care professional.
USEFUL LINK: Full list of protective eyewear requirements and guidelines on the AAO website.
About the Author
Dr. Moore is a residency-trained medical optometrist with a focus on comprehensive ocular health care (including diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and dry eye syndrome), post-operative eye care and contact lens exams. In addition to her clinical experience, Dr. Moore has presented at multiple national meetings and enjoys donating her time to medical missions. She practices at ReFocus Eye Health.