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Eye Protection Critical in Sports

Your budding baseball star steps to the plate hoping to whack the ball—but sometimes the ball whacks back.

Each year, thousands of children suffer sports-related eye injuries, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA). Sports is the leading cause of school-age children's eye injuries, but most of those injuries are preventable.

The AAO, the AOA, and the American Academy of Pediatrics say all kids in organized sports should be encouraged to wear appropriate eye protection. The AAO and the AOA, in fact, urge mandatory eye protection in school or community-sponsored sports.

Sports-related injuries in all age groups occur most frequently in basketball, racquet sports, and baseball. Other high-risk sports: hockey, football, lacrosse, boxing, and soccer.

Although eye protection can't prevent every injury, the right gear is extremely effective. (Keep in mind that proper eye protection varies from sport to sport.) According to the AAO and the AOA, 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented.

What if your kids worry that they won't play as well—or look as cool—with eye protection? Tell them basketball greats Kareem Abdul Jabbar and James Worthy, along with football star Eric Dickerson, wore eye protection.

A vision for safety:

  • Have children's eyes checked before sports participation. If they can't see, they can't duck the puck or dodge the ball.

  • Pick the right eye guards. Each sport has its own kind, but what's most important is that the eye guards fit your child.

  • Buy prescription glasses made of polycarbonate plastic, which can withstand a projectile traveling at 90 mph.

  • For contact sports, choose eye guards or glasses with padding at the nose and brow.

  • Choose glasses with strong frames and secure them with a strap.

  • Ask your eye doctor about prescription sports eye guards.

Sports protection

Here are the protection devices recommended by Prevent Blindness America for five popular sports that can cause eye injuries in children:

  • Baseball. Use a polycarbonate face guard, which attaches to the helmet; sports eye guards.

  • Basketball. Use sports eye guards.

  • Soccer. Use sports eye guards.

  • Football. Use polycarbonate shield attached to faceguard; sports eye guards.

  • Hockey. Use wire or polycarbonate mask; sports eye guards.