Friday, September 23, 2011

Eye Safety

Sports and Home Eye Safety Month

In continuing with our theme over the past couple of months of Safety, we highlight Sports and Home Eye Safety in September.  From personal and firsthand experience this topic should be near the top for everyone.

Think Safety First!

It is estimated that 100,000 Americans suffer eye-related injuries from sports activities each year.

What sports are most likely to be associated with eye injuries?

Basketball leads the list for the sports injuries in this country. Really, most of them occur from basketball and baseball—they make up about a third of all sports injuries in this country. This is followed by swimming and pool sports; and then racket sports and court sports; and then football, soccer, and golf. Now most of the injuries in these sports are caused by getting poked in the eye by a finger, because larger balls like basketballs really don’t fit into the eye socket. But smaller balls like racket balls and golf balls do fit into the eye socket and really give a lot of force directly to the globe. Golf balls, especially, because of their high velocity, cause just devastating eye injuries.

What kind of eye injuries do you see in people who do not wear protective eyewear while playing in sporting activities?

We see sporting injuries involving just about all parts of the eye, and often times people have a scratch on the cornea—and this can occur really from relatively minor trauma to the eye. And these are really painful but they tend to do well with appropriate treatment. But if you have a little more forceful blow to the eye, you’ll tend to get bleeding in the back of the eye or the front of the eye, or a cataract or retinal detachment, or even fractures of the bones—or even worse is a direct rupture of the eye.

If someone is hit in the eye but their eye doesn’t hurt, does that mean that everything will be OK?

Unfortunately, no. It’s a common misconception because anyone whose had a significant blow to the eye really should have an urgent evaluation of the eye. And this is because some minor injuries can be quite painful, but really some potentially blinding injuries are painless.

What should a person do if they get an injury to their eye while playing sports?

First is you really don’t want to touch, rub, or press on the eye because this can cause further damage—especially if the eye has any kind of an opening in it. You’d like to cover the eye up to minimize further damage, and sometimes if you don’t have a protective shield, you can just use either a paper or Styrofoam™ cup and tape it over the eye. If the vision is blurred, you really should get in to see somebody urgently. If you felt something hit the eye with any more than a minor force—either hitting your eye or your eyelids, even if the vision’s normal—you should get a thorough examination to look for silent but potentially blinding injuries to the eye like retinal tears or injuries that predispose to glaucoma. It’s OK to triage damage to go to an emergency room, but if you really need a more thorough examination to look for more subtle or severe damage, you really need to have this by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

How easy is it to prevent eye injuries?

That’s the awesome thing, it’s really very easy. We know that about 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented by wearing appropriate protective eyewear. And most of these lenses in this eyewear are made out of polycarbonate, which is an incredibly strong and clear plastic. But the recommendations for the type of protection really vary according to the sport. So, for example, if you have a relatively low-risk sport, such as singles tennis, a sturdy street-wear frame is really adequate protection. But if you have high-risk sport like ice hockey, a helmet and full facial protection is really recommended. And you really need to have these things fit by somebody who knows what they’re doing: an eye care professional who’s knowledgeable in sports eye wear. And I’d really recommend you ask around for a good one before spending the money.

Who needs to wear protective eye-wear?

Ideally, everyone should wear it, but the people that it’s most important for are functionally one-eyed athletes. And by functionally one-eyed, I mean somebody whose visual acuity, despite wearing glasses, can’t be corrected to better than 20/40 in their poorer-seeing eye. If a functionally one-eyed person has an injury to their better seeing eye, it really is a life changing event.

For example, in many states that person could no longer get a driver’s license to drive. Also, there are people who’ve had prior damage to their eye that are especially vulnerable to injury. Or people who are moderately or severely near-sighted because they have about a 10 times greater chance for developing things like retinal detachments following eye trauma if you compare them to a person who is not near-sighted.

And then lastly, another group that’s at high risk for sports injury is children. And this is because children really engage in sports in a fairly fearless manner and they’re also athletically immature so they’re pretty susceptible to sports injuries. And there are several good studies that show that eye injuries are markedly reduced in baseball and hockey youth leagues that have mandated appropriate protective eye-wear.

Do protective lenses hamper athletic performance?

There is a misconception of that and it’s probably the most common excuse for people not wearing protective lenses is that they think they’re not going to do as well. However, these lenses have been designed differently and really are very sports-specific. And there are multiple studies out now that show that properly fitted protective lenses do not impair sports performance. (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics)

Some of the Home Eye Safety items to remember this time of year are working out in your yard, picking up branches, leaves; trimming and pruning are all excellent examples of working where eye safety is critical.  While those leaf blower work wonders, they also kick up a dust and debris and often find your face and eyes – been there and done that and have learned the hard way to wear my safety glasses while doing those activities.

As adults we also need to set the example for your children – make sure that the kids are wearing protective gear as well – each and every time.
Sparky has it right!

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