With spring just around the corner, many of us will be heading outdoors and strapping on the shin guards, baseball gloves, or other sports related equipment…but what about protection for your eyes?

Each year, thousands of sports-related eye injuries occur in the United States. The arrival of spring brings more outdoor sports and with them, the increased danger of eye injuries. The American Optometric Association (AOA) urges even casual athletes to protect their sight-and that of teammates-by keeping street eyewear off the playing field and wearing proper protective eyewear instead. Conventional frames and lenses do not meet the minimum requirements for impact resistance in most sports, which can turn a small collision into a sight-threatening injury, the AOA cautions. Sports-protective eyewear is tested to meet rigid standards and some have been independently verified and received the AOA Seal of Acceptance.

“Eye protection should be of major concern to all athletes, especially in certain high-risk sports,” said Dr. Paul Berman, AOA optometrist and Sports Vision Specialist. “Thousands of children and adults unnecessarily suffer sports-related eye injuries each year. Every thirteen minutes an emergency room in the United States treats a sports related eye injury and nearly all could be prevented by using the proper protective eyewear. And, if you participate in sports, get an eye exam. It can detect whether you have vision problems, like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, which could diminish your performance and lead to physical injuries during sports.”

Some cautionary sports vision statistics include:

*       Approximately 600,000 documented sports-related injuries are reported each year in the United States. (Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program, Eyes (Ears) and Workers Compensation)

*       More than 42,000 sports-related eye injuries require emergency room attention. (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)

*       An estimated 13,500 cases result in permanent loss of sight. (Protective Eyewear Certification Council)

*       Approximately 72 percent of sports-related eye injuries occur in people younger than 25 years and approximately 43 percent occur in children younger than 15 years. (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Sports vision goes beyond choosing the correct protective eyewear that protects and provides clear vision. Just like speed and strength, vision is an important component of how well you play your sport, the AOA says. And there is much more to vision than just seeing clearly. Your vision is composed of many interrelated skills. And, just as exercise and practice can increase your speed and strength, they also can improve your visual fitness and accuracy.

Because all sports have different visual demands, an optometrist with expertise in sports vision can assess your unique visual system and recommend the proper eyeglasses or contact lenses, or design a vision-therapy program to maximize your visual skills for a specific sport.

Sports with a moderate to high risk of eye injury include basketball, baseball, softball, cricket, lacrosse, field hockey, ice hockey, squash, racquetball, fencing, boxing, full-contact martial arts, air rifle, tennis, badminton, soccer, volleyball, water polo, football, fishing, golf and wrestling.

The most common sports vision concerns include:

1.      Protection: Athletes’ eyes need certified sports protective eyewear that will protect against injury with lenses that protect from ultra-violet light.

2.      Correction: Spectacle wearers require sports protective eyewear that also will correct their vision, while contact-lens wearers may need a different lens than their everyday one. For example, skiers spend their time in cold, dry conditions and need a contact lens that will provide more moisture.

3.      Vision enhancement: Athletes often need help enhancing their binocularity or depth perception.

“Doctors of optometry work with their patients to provide unique, advantaged eyewear solutions in order to protect vision and improve performance in athletics,” said Dr. Berman. “I encourage you to visit your local optometrist to discuss options for vision protection, correction, and enhancement.”

For additional information regarding sports vision, please visit http://www.aoa.org/sports-vision.xml.


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