I was listening to the radio the other day about the new concussion policy rules that a lot of youth football leagues now have in place. It started me thinking about the many eye injuries I see as a consequence of sports and trying to increase awareness about these potentially devastating, completely preventable injuries. I’m a little late – September was Sports Eye Injury Prevention Awareness Month (that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?) But the message is important, even if the name of the month is a bit long.
Below is one of my favorite patients and what happened to him should serve as a cautionary tale for all parents whose children are involved in sports. This kid was 10 years old, playing baseball and accidentally walked behind the batter. He was struck in the face with the bat (accidentally) and suffered from numerous fractures of his face, the bones around his eyes and lost vision in the right eye from the trauma.
Dr. Timothy McDevitt was able to repair the fractures in Kaliu’s face and I performed surgery to straighten his eyes. Here he is post-op. Click here for his mother’s testimonial about her son’s surgical experience at Honolulu Eye Clinic.
He looks great post-operatively and we were able to make the eye look much more normal. Unfortunately, there was no way to restore his vision in the right eye. As a mother of 2 young boys, this kind of preventable injury hits close to home. I always think that an injury like this could have been prevented if all of the children on the baseball field had been required to wear sports goggles (also called recreational spectacles).
One problem I’ve noticed is that often kids (and even their parents) will wear their regular glasses when playing sports. But, you shouldn’t! More than 40,000 sports-related eye injuries occur every year. Blunt trauma, such as a ball hitting the eye cause the majority of these injuries. Some parents also mistakenly think that the helmets with face shields are enough to project the eyes (like football helmets). But, this is not true. Your child’s eyes are still exposed to penetrating sports equipment or fingers! Kids and teens have high rates of sports-related eye injuries because of their wide involvement in athletics in school and their tendency to play aggressively. The types of eye injuries can vary including:
1. Corneal abrasions
2. Bleeding in the eye (hyphema)
3. Fracture of the bones surrounding the eye (orbital fracture)
4. Retinal detachment, or even rupture of the eye.
Depending upon which part of the eye is damaged, permanent vision loss can result and surgery may be required to repair the eye. Wearing eye protection significantly reduces the risk of these injuries by ninety percent!
Recommended Protective Eyewear
Many people mistakenly believe that regular glasses or contacts can protect their eyes. Yet, glasses can break upon impact causing a penetrating injury to the eye and contacts do not protect the eye at all.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has standards for the types of sports goggles to be worn in various sports. All sports goggles should be made from polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a high-impact resistant plastic that offers UV protection and can be made in prescription or non-prescription lenses. Regular eyeglasses only have 5 percent of the impact resistance of polycarbonate lenses. Even though all children’s eye glasses are made from polycarbonate, the frames can still bend and break in the eye, making them unsuitable to wear during sports.
At HEC, we carry Liberty Sport goggles, so I’m most familiar with them, pictured below.
They are a type of protective goggles especially designed to be worn during sports. Fitting most prescriptions, Liberty Sport brand goggles are tested and approved to withstand high impacts. They have very soft padding on the bridge and sides of the frame aimed to protect the bridge of the nose as well as the temples. Their wrap design helps prevent dirt, dust, and even UV rays from damaging the eyeball and the delicate areas surrounding the eye. Liberty Sport goggles automatically come in the polycarbonate lens material mentioned above and can be ordered clear, or with polarized sunglass lenses, or also with Transitions Lenses (also known as photochromic lenses)–which turn from clear indoors to dark, sunglass-type lens when exposed to UV light outdoors. They are also designed to fit under sports helmets (baseball, football, etc). And the best part, as mentioned above, is that we can customized them with yours or your child’s glasses prescription in them. I have some patients that like to wear these as their regular glasses! Of course, they also come in a wide variety of colors and styles.
Whichever type of sports goggles you choose, just make sure that it has polycarbonate lenses and is certified by American Society for Testing and Materials as safety goggles.