Eye Injuries Remain the Leading Cause of Blindness in U.S. Children, with Sports Eye Safety Often Overlooked

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institute of Health (NIH), eye injuries remain the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, with most injuries occurring during sporting activities. The proper use of protective eyewear can prevent up to 90 percent of sports related eye injuries, yet many youth sports leagues do not require the use of eye protection. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data collected in 2016 shows that nearly 35,000 U.S. children experienced sports related eye injuries, more of which occurred due to Water and Pool activities than any other sport. Basketball was the second leading cause for sports related eye-injuries in children, followed by Guns, Darts, Arrows, and Slingshots.

Wearing swim goggles helps protect children's' developing eyes.

Wearing swim goggles helps protect children’s developing eyes.

Without proper eye protection, water and pool activities can cause eye infections and irritations, as well as abrasions or trauma caused by other swimmers. Using contact lenses while in the water can also increase the risk for a severe, painful corneal infection caused by a waterborne amoeba. If left untreated, Acanthamoeba keratitis can lead to scarring of the cornea and even blindness.

Contact sports such as basketball, or sports involving projectiles, can also cause infection, corneal abrasions, fracture of the eye socket, swollen or detached retinas or a traumatic cataract.

“The majority of sports related eye injuries are preventable if proper eye protection is used,” said Dr. Mark Cheung, Chief of Optometry at Advanced Center for Eyecare. “The first priority for any parent with a child participating in a sporting activity should be safety. It only takes a split second for a life altering eye injury to occur.”

Dr. Cheung recommends that parents, teachers, school nurses and coaches carefully consider the risks involved with a child’s sporting activity and always use the appropriate protective eyewear to minimize the chances of eye injuries. By contacting an eye doctor, parents can get recommendations and prescriptions for custom protective eyewear, if needed. Parents should also make sure that any organized sport their children participate in provides continuous adult supervision, including by someone trained in prevention, recognition and immediate care of eye injuries. It is important that parents meet with their child’s coach or trainer to ensure that procedures are in place to properly attend to an eye injury, should one occur. Dr. Cheung recommends that all parents, teachers, school nurses and coaches familiarize themselves with the signs of an eye injury and know at which point to seek medical treatment.

A group of children wearing liberty sport protective glasses.

Liberty Sport makes a wide variety of youth protective eyewear.

When it comes to the most commonly occurring sports-related eye injuries, those related to water and pool activities, Dr. Cheung recommends using polarized swim goggles with UV protection. “Not only do these types of swim goggles protect the eyes from the potentially irritating effects of chlorine, as well as infectious microbes that may be present in the water, but they also filter out harmful UV rays from the sun that are reflected off of the water into a swimmer’s eyes.”

For more information about preventing sports related eye injuries, parents should talk to their eye doctor or call Advanced Center for Eyecare at (661) 215-1006.