EASTERN NIAGARA HEALTHLINES: Sports eye safety

Dr. Charles Fetterman

Now that fall sports are underway, it’s the perfect time for a reminder about maintaining safety practices to prevent sports injuries to the eyes. Each year, more than 25,000 people seek treatment in emergency departments or urgent care facilities for sports-related eye injuries. It’s important to note that the majority of these injuries could have been prevented.

Different sports and physical activities have varying levels of risk for eye injury. Recent studies found that the game of basketball contributed most to sports-related eye injuries in the U.S., followed by baseball, water sports, airsoft rifles, pellet guns, racquetball and hockey. Boxing and full-contact martial arts pose an extremely high risk of serious and even blinding eye injuries. There is no satisfactory eye protection for boxing, although thumbless gloves may reduce the number of boxing eye injuries.

Those who play ice hockey and men’s lacrosse should wear a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield. Hockey face masks should be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

Take these additional steps to avoid sports eye injuries:

— Be careful during any activities or games that involve projectiles and sharp objects that could cause an injuries when coming into contact with the eye.

— Wear proper safety goggles (lensed polycarbonate protectors) for racquet sports or basketball. In order to be assured that your eyes are protected, it is important that any eye guard or sports protective eyewear are labeled as ASTM F803 approved. This eyewear is performance tested to give you the highest levels of protection.

— Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for youth baseball.

— Use helmets and face shields approved by the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association when playing hockey.

— If you normally wear eye glasses, remember they do not offer the proper eye protection many sports require. In fact, those who wear glasses could potentially incur a worse injury to the eye if the glasses shatter. Regardless of the activity, make sure that you’re using the right kind of eye protection for each sport in which you participate. Protecting your eyes for life should always be a top priority.

If you do experience an eye injury, play it safe and go to the ER, even if the injury appears minor. Delaying medical attention can potentially result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

It’s also important to add that spectators at sporting events should be careful as well. Balls, bats and players can end up in the stands at any time. Keep your eyes on the game and watch out for foul balls, flying objects and other hazardous situations that may be created by participants and/or fans.

Dr. Charles Fetterman is an ophthalmologist and serves as the medical director of Niagara Regional Surgery Center. To schedule an eye care appointment at his Lockport office, at 70 Professional Parkway, call 434-7505. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a special feature by the Eastern Niagara Health System.

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