Every year, approximately 37,000 people suffer sports-related eye injuries serious enough to required emergency room care, says Dr. Jeffrey Garcia.

The sports that cause most of these injuries are basketball, baseball and racket sports. but any sport with a projectile is considered eye hazardous.

To help prevent sports eye injuries, athletes should use protective athletic eye wear whether or not prescription eye wear is needed.

Choices include:

  • Any sturdy eyeglass frame with polycarbonate lenses (used for non-contact sports like golf, biking, archery).
  • Sports frames with such features as padded bridges; rubber bridges; deep-grooved eyewires, so lenses won’t fall out if the frame is hit hard; a face-formed shape for a wider field of view; and headband attachments to keep them in place.
  • One-piece plastic sports frames with prescription or non-prescription polycarbonate lenses, (used for baseball/softball, racquetball, tennis, handball, squash, badminton, basketball, racquetball, volleyball).
  • Goggles designed primarily for protection and able to hold either prescription or non-prescription lenses, (used for swimming, water skiing, snow skiing, scuba diving, skydiving).
  • Eye-face guards designed for wearing over other glasses, (used primarily for football, ice hockey and similar high-risk sports).

Contact lens wearers need protective athletic eye wear also, Dr. Garcia says. Contacts alone do not provide sufficient protection.

The other side of sports eye safety, Dr. Garcia says, is playing defensively. To do this, sports participants must be aware of the potentially eye hazardous situations in their sport. Racquetball players face the greatest risk from the racket and body of the opponent. To play defensively, they need to be visually aware of the opponent’s position at all times and should not look back when the ball is hit.

In tennis, the greatest eye injury risk is from the ball. So having the vision skills to follow the ball, judge its speed and get into position to hit it not only helps to score a point but also to protect the eyes.

Tennis players also should use only one ball during warm-up and should control their temper. Several tennis players have suffered serious eye injuries from being hit by a ball fired in anger of frustration.

Athletes who are hit in or near the eye or suffer a blow to the head should seek immediate care at a hospital emergency room or from an eye doctor. Although some may see stars or spots or notice a change in their vision, damage may not be immediately apparent. Prompt attention can be vitally important, particularly in treating a detached retina.

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