Prevent Blindness America, a volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness, reports that more than 100,000 sports-related eye injuries occur each year in the United States. With spring approaching and people heading outside to play, it is a good time to remember how precious the gift of sight is and to learn how to prevent and treat eye injuries.
Why Wear Sports Safety Glasses?
Sports safety glasses have polycarbonate lenses, which are more shatter resistant than the standard CR-39 plastic lenses.
Sports safety frames are sturdier than regular dress frames and are less likely to cause facial cuts and bruises if pushed hard against the head or face.
People who do not wear eyeglasses, or people who wear contact lenses, must also be aware of the risk for eye injury. The injury source is not only balls and pucks, but also other players’ equipment, such as rackets and sticks. Non-prescription sports safety eyewear should be worn to help prevent injuries.
Common Eye Injuries and Treatment
Corneal abrasion — Fortunately, most eye injuries are superficial. The most common type of injury is a corneal abrasion or scratch. In basketball, for example, the defender may try to block the shooter’s vision. It is very easy to accidentally poke a finger or fingernail into an eye.
Treatment — includes evaluation by an eye care practitioner to determine the scratch’s size and depth. Cold compresses can help reduce associated lid swelling and pain. The cornea’s superficial layers will generally regenerate in 24 to 72 hours, depending on the extent of the injury. An antibiotic eye drop is used to prevent infection.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage — This common superficial injury occurs when one small blood vessel on the white part of the eye ruptures, leaving a bright red spot on the white surface (sclera) of the eye. Generally speaking, this type of injury usually looks worse than it is. However, when a subconjunctival hemorrhage results from sports trauma, it is important to see an eye care practitioner to make sure that there is no internal damage.
Treatment — involves cold compresses during the first 24 hours, and then switching to warm compresses until the eye appears white again. Artificial tears can make the eye feel better. The normal course for blood re-absorption is usually seven to 10 days.
Any blunt trauma to the eye requires an immediate, dilated evaluation by an eye care practitioner. Damage to the internal eye structures can have significant visual impact. It is especially important that athletes do not wait several days after blunt trauma before seeking professional evaluation.
Sports should be fun and safe. Remembering to properly protect the eyes will enable a lifetime of participation.