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Five steps protect young athletes’ eyes  

Special to the Enquirer 

Nearly 30,000 people in the U.S. go to emergency rooms each year with sports-related eye injuries, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. An astounding 90 percent of these ER visits could have been avoided if the athlete wore protective eyewear. 

With April designated Sports Eye Safety Month, the Alabama Academy of Ophthalmology is reminding everyone that the best defense against potentially blinding sports-related injuries is wearing protective eyewear. 

“Sports are one of the most common reasons for trauma in the eye ER. Some of those injuries can lead to permanent vision loss,” said Dr. Cecil McCollum, medical director of UAB Callahan Eye Hospital Emergency Department. “Please equip yourself and your children with protective eyewear when participating in sports.” 

Among the common sports-related eye injuries ophthalmologists routinely treat are corneal abrasions, bruising around the eye, retinal detachments and internal bleeding. 

Here are some safety tips for all athletes to practice:  

  1. Check and follow sport specific requirements and standards regarding eye protection. 
  1. Consider replacing eyewear once yellowed or damaged to ensure the best protection. 
  1. For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. 
  1. For snow or water sports, consider eyewear with UV protection to avoid sunburn or glare. 
  1. Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should still wear eye protection; contacts and regular eyeglasses are not replacements for protective sports eyewear. 

“Getting athletes of any age to wear protective eyewear is a challenge,” said Dr. Dianna Seldomridge, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  

“Ophthalmologists hear all the reasons for not wearing eye protection: It’s cumbersome, it will impair peripheral vision, it will fog up. But sports goggles have vastly improved over the years, and if you start your kids early, wearing protective eyewear will become as natural as donning a batting helmet as they step up to the plate.” 

Anyone experiencing an eye injury should seek medical attention immediately, even if the injury seems minor; sometimes noticeable symptoms develop later. 

For more information on eye health, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart website.