More than 90 percent of the 40,000 sports-related eye injuries per year are preventable, according to FamilyDoctor.org. High-vision-risk sports are those played with a stick, racket, ball, bat or puck, and football is high risk because games involve bodily contact as well as a ball. If you normally wear glasses, you can wear glasses when you play sports, but you will need to make some modifications to stay safe.
Common Sports-Related Eye Injuries
Most sports-related eye injuries occur in people under 30, and most commonly in children. Three types of sports-related trauma to the eye, as reported by the University of Illinois Department of Ophthalmology, are blunt injuries, penetrating injuries and abrasions to the cornea. Eye injuries range from irritating to painful to potentially blinding. Fingernail scratches to the eye are common and don't normally require treatment. Bleeding in the eye, called hyphema, often caused by the blunt trauma of an elbow or ball, requires a visit to the ophthalmologist. Potentially devastating injuries may occur when shards of broken eyeglasses penetrate the eye, and the UIC Department of Ophthalmology considers this type of injury to be an emergency warranting immediate treatment.
Protective gear worn during football is a must, but don't stop at a helmet and pads. KidsHealth.org recommends the following additional safety equipment: proper shoes, a mouth guard, an athletic supporter for males and -- if you wear glasses -- shatterproof glass or plastic lenses. Do not wear regular eyeglasses on the field.
Many major league athletes now wear eye protection, says All About Vision. Some fitness clubs and athletic facilities even require eye protection. Proper sports eyewear, whether prescription or nonprescription, reduces the risk of injury to the eye and enhances vision, allowing the player to see better. If you want to play football, the best lens is made of polycarbonate, which is resistant to impact and has ultraviolet protection built in. Scratch-resistant coating prevents damage to the lenses and increases durability. Choose sports frames designed to fit inside the football helmet, and ensure the frames are made of impact-resistant polycarbonate or plastic. Good football frames also contain rubber padding where the frames contact the wearer's nose and head. Avoid the temptation to buy frames that are too big, thinking that children will grow into them because frames do not protect as well if they don't fit. Frames that a child has outgrown may also interfere with peripheral vision, increasing the risk of injury.
Some people who have trouble wearing contact lenses for long periods are able to wear them during sporting events only. Choosing contact lenses that are disposable and then throwing them away after the game, says All About Vision, is one option for those who don't want the hassle of cleaning and storing contacts. If contact lenses are an option, you should still consider wearing nonprescription protective eyewear while playing football because the contacts do not protect against traumatic eye injuries or UV rays from the sun.
- FamilyDoctor.org: Eye Injuries in Sports
- University of Illinois Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences: Sports Eye Injuries
- KidsHealth.org: Football Safety Tips
- KidsHealth.org: Essential Equipment
- All About Vision: Protective Sports Eyewear
- All About Vision: Contact Lenses That Enhance Sports Performance