No one sets out for a sport expecting an eye injury, but in fact just a few preventive measures can make the difference. Learn some facts regarding sports-related eye injuries, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO):
1. An estimated 40,000 sports-related eye injuries occur each year in the United States.
2. About 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries are preventable.
3. One-third of the victims of sports-related eye injuries are children.
4. The most common injuries associated with sports are abrasions and contusions, detached retinas, corneal lacerations, cataracts, hemorrhages, and loss of an eye.
5. Baseball accounts for the largest number of eye injuries in children ages 5 to 14, at about 21 percent, while basketball is responsible for 28 percent of eye injuries in 15- to 24-year-olds. In baseball, most eye injuries are due to ocular contact with the ball. Batters are the most common victims, but pitchers and fielders also can be injured. In basketball, most eye injuries are due to eyes being poked by fingers and elbows.
6. Since 1990, Little League has recommended, but does not mandate, the use of protective facemasks. In 1993, the Dixie Youth Baseball Team mandated the use of polycarbonate face shields for all runners and batters. The coaches of the Dixie Youth Baseball Team, which includes Little League players in the South and Southwest, agree that the safety shields have not hindered the performance of the players when batting or catching. Since the rule has been enforced, no significant eye or face injuries have occurred to a player who was wearing the protective gear.
7. In Canada, ocular trauma decreased by 90 percent after certified full-face protectors attached to the headgear were made mandatory in organized amateur hockey.
8. In the NFL, facemasks fitted with shields that are specially contoured according to the player's position prevent most eye injuries.
9. Paintball has become a popular sport worldwide, but has been associated with devastating eye injuries, including blindness.
10. Many celebrity athletes agree that eye protection is important and use protective eyewear themselves.
11. Polycarbonate lenses provide the best eye protection for many sports. They are lightweight, scratch resistant, thin, and can be designed to meet most eyewear designs or prescriptions. Polycarbonate is 10 times more impact-resistant than other plastics and can withstand the force of a .22-caliber bullet. Developed by the aerospace industry to use in the face shields (helmet visors) of Apollo astronauts, the material can also be found in bulletproof windows, airplane windows, space shuttles, and shields carried by riot police officers.