Protect eyes when at play

| July 18, 2014 | 0 Comments
Sports are more prone to eye injuries than most people realize.

Sports are more prone to eye injuries than most people realize.


Dr. David Hilber
Army News Service
Sports are an everyday activity for many Americans and for many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

Sports are also a leading cause of eye injuries, but not an activity where use of safety eyewear has completely taken hold.

The military uses a variety of sports activities to aid in physical fitness training and to stimulate competition; however, increased participation in sports has been accompanied by an increase in injuries in general and eye injuries in particular.

Athletic eye injuries
Prevent Blindness America, or PBA, reports that more than 40,000 athletes suffer an eye injury while playing sports every year. And, every 13 minutes, an emergency room in the U.S. treats a sports-related eye injury.

PBA has estimated that 90 percent of all eye injuries are preventable, including sports-related eye injuries.

A research article on sports eye injuries from PBA estimates that more than 100,000 eye injuries occur annually. Another specialist in sports eye injuries reports that over 42,000 of those injured require emergency care.

In the Department of Defense, during the period of 2000-2012, among active duty service members, sports accounted for 8 percent overall and 5 percent of inpatient treated eye injuries where the cause was reported. In nearly all of these cases, no protective eyewear was worn.

High risk sports
Which sports cause the most eye injuries? According to PBA, around 6,000 Americans report eye injuries each year from basketball, making it the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries and the leading cause of all eye injuries among people over the age of 15.

The most common types of eye injuries from basketball are abrasions caused by fingers.

Water and pool activities are the second leading cause, followed by guns (air, BB and the like), which are the leading cause of eye injuries in people aged 14 and under. Baseball/softball and exercise/weightlifting round out the top five.

File photo

File photo

Preventing injuries
Just as with military and industrial activities, it is important to have the right safety eyewear. With sports, it is important to note that, in some cases, specific types of eyewear are needed to fully protect the eye. Many sports organizations have also developed requirements to wear protective equipment for participation.

Protection required
What protection is generally accepted for commonly played sports? Here is a partial list from ASTM International:
Baseball/softball: Polycarbonate face shield (attached to helmet) in combination with sports spectacles with polycarbonate lenses worn under the face shield for batting and running bases. ASTM F910-04 (2010) covers eye and face protection for youth players (batting/base running). ASTM F803-11 covers protection for all other players (fielding).
Basketball: Sports eye guard with polycarbonate lenses and side shields. Frames without side shields are not recommended because of the possibility of a finger entering the open spaces in the frame and injuring the eye.
Football: Polycarbonate shield attached over a wire face guard. Sports spectacles with polycarbonate lenses under the shield will provide additional protection.
Racquet Sports: Protectors meeting ASTM F803-11 applies to players of racquet sports. The U.S. Army Public Health Command’s Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program recommends only protectors with polycarbonate lenses for racquet sports.
Soccer: Sports spectacles with polycarbonate lenses are recommended.
Players of any sport with potential to cause eye injury should wear protective eyewear designed for that sport. Polycarbonate lenses must be used with protectors that meet or exceed the requirements of ASTM International.
Polycarbonate eyewear is 10 times more impact resistant than other plastics, according to the National Eye Institute.
(Editor’s note: Hilber is a doctor of optometry at the U.S. Army Public Health Command.)

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