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Prevent Blindness declares September as Sports Eye Safety Month


Prevent Blindness plans to educate the public on the risk of significant eye injuries and the need for the proper sports eye protection, with more than 32,000 sports-related eye injuries treated in 2022, up almost 20 percent from previous year.

(Image Credit: AdobeStock/aicandy)

(Image Credit: AdobeStock/aicandy)

According to annual data from Prevent Blindness, more than 32,000 sports-related eye injuries treated in the United States last year, an increase of almost 20 percent from the previous year.

To educate the public on the risk of significant and potentially blinding eye injuries and the need for proper eye protection, Prevent Blindness announced it has declared September as Sports Eye Safety Month.

Prevent Blindness, according to its news release, is providing free downloadable fact sheets, shareable social media graphics, and a dedicated webpage.

According to a news release, Prevent Blindness also offering a new episode in the online Focus on Eye Health Expert Series, “Sports Eye Safety,” with Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness, interviewing sports vision specialist Keith Smithson, OD, of Northern Virginia Doctors of Optometry, and Sports Vision Pros.

According to the data, “non-powder guns, darts, arrows, and slingshots” had the overall highest rate of eye injuries, the news release noted. For children ages 0-14, “pools and water sports” had the highest rate of injuries. Types of sports-related eye injuries include blunt trauma, penetrating injuries, eye infections, and corneal scratches and abrasions. 

The news release also cited Keck Medicine of USC, which noted athletes may also be at risk for a Radiation Eye Injury. Prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun can be incredibly harmful to vision.

Prevent Blindness noted in its release that athletes who play in water or snow sports, such as surfing or snow skiing are exposed to bright glaring sunlight that reflects off water or snow, increasing the risk of vision loss or damage.

Moreover, Prevent Blindness recommended in its news release that athletes of any age wear protective eyewear when participating in sports. Athletes should always consult an eyecare professional to determine the best kind of eye protection for their sport and medical needs.

According to the National Eye Institute, using proper protective eyewear can prevent 9 out of 10 sports-related eye injuries.

Lori Pacheco, RN, CRNO, discussed sports-related eye injuries and how to prevent them with Ophthalmology Times.

“Any type of racquet sport is at high risk,” she said. “Not only do you have the rackets and the arms and everything, but you also have the ball coming at you at a very high rate of speed.”

When it comes to the eyes, injuries can include permanent or partial loss of vision, torn retinas, bleeding in the eye, cuts requiring stitches, and black and blue eyes, similar to injuries ophthalmologists seen people injured in other racquet sports like tennis, squash and racquetball.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), about 40% of eye injuries each year occur during sports and recreational activities, and 53% of ophthalmologists surveyed in a report pointed out that most sports related eye injuries they treat are among teenagers (ages 13-19), followed by young adults (20s), children (12 and under), adults (30-50) and older adults (50+).

Moreover, the AAO noted there are about 30,000 sports related eye injuries annually the United States, many of which could be avoided with adequate eye protection.

“So, these are all preventable injuries by using the right pair of protective equipment,” Pacheco said.

According to the news release, for parents and caregivers of children involved in sports, Prevent Blindness recommends:

  • Parents, teachers, coaches and school nurses should learn about the eye injury risks associated with sports before allowing children to participate.
  • Parents should visit an ophthalmologist or optometrist for protective eyewear recommendations before enrolling a child in any sports program.
  • Parents should only enroll children in after-school organized sports through school districts, community centers, park districts and recreation centers where adults supervise all of the sports activity.
  • Parents should meet with a child’s coach or athletic trainer to make sure that proper procedures are in place to deal with a child’s eye injury should one occur.
  • Parents, teachers, coaches and school nurses should familiarize themselves with the warning signs of an eye injury and know when to seek treatment.

According to the news release, Prevent Blindness and Rec Specs are partnering during September’s Sports Eye Safety Month to promote education and awareness on ways to protect vision. Download free educational and promotional materials, including the Sports Eye Safety Guide from Liberty Sport, the company behind Rec Specs.

“A sports-related injury can happen in an instant, but the effects may last a lifetime,” Todd said in the news release. “Team up with your eye doctor to find the best sports eye protection to help keep you in the game today and save your sight for the future.” 

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