Protective eyewear can help prevent many of the 40,000 eye injuries related to sports that happen to children each year.
The sports that cause most of these injuries are basketball, baseball, pool sports, and racket sports. But any sport that involves something that is fired or thrown is considered hazardous to the eyes, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).
To help prevent sports eye injuries, children should use protective athletic eyewear, even if they wear eyeglasses.
Parents can help protect their children's eyes by choosing the right eyewear. Here are suggestions from the AOA:
For high-risk sports, like baseball or softball, tennis, badminton, basketball, or volleyball, one-piece plastic sports frames with prescription or nonprescription polycarbonate lenses allow for clear vision and protection. Plenty of frames on the market today give protection and look stylish.
For lower-risk sports, like cycling or in-line skating, look for strong eyeglass frames with polycarbonate lenses.
There are special features parents and kids might want to consider. Padded or rubber bridges can provide comfort. Deep-grooved eye wires hold lenses in the frame and keep them from falling out if the frame is hit hard. A shape formed like a face can provide a wider field of view. Headband attachments can keep frames on the head.
Kids who spend a lot of time swimming should check out protective goggles that hold either prescription or nonprescription lenses for swimming, water skiing, or snorkeling.
Street hockey fans and football players need extra protection. They should wear eye-face guards made for wearing over other glasses.
Contact lens wearers also need protective athletic eyewear, the AOA says. Contacts alone do not give protection.
What should parents do if a child does get hit in the eye? Take the child right away to a hospital emergency room or to an eye care provider. Some kids may see stars or spots or notice a change in their vision. But damage from a blow isn't always so obvious, even right after it happens, the AOA says.