Sports Eye Protection

American Academy of Ophthalmology Supports Mandatory Eye Protection for Young Athletes

(San Francisco) - March 16, 1998 – The American Academy of Ophthalmology has chosen Sports Eye Safety Month (April) to launch its campaign for mandatory eyewear for children participating in school-related or community-sponsored athletic events. The Academy recommends that young athletes wear shatterproof goggles, constructed of 3mm polycarbonate (20 times stronger than ordinary eyeglasses), that are fitted by an eye care professional. Sports-related eye injuries increased more than 100% in the last three years, moving from 41,000 to 100,000. Of those 100,000 injuries, 90% could have been prevented had the athlete been wearing protective eyewear.

Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children, and sports are the major cause of eye injuries in school-age children, with up to 30% of the injuries occurring to children under the age of 16. Baseball claims the largest number of eye injuries (21%) for children aged 5-14, while basketball is responsible for 32% of the eye injuries in people aged 15-24. Overall, the sports most commonly associated with eye injuries and young adults are baseball, basketball, soccer, football, and hockey.

Since Canada optioned the use of facemasks during amateur hockey in 1976, the number of eye injuries fell from 287 to 90. Based on these numbers, Canada mandated that protective eyewear and headgear be worn in organized amateur hockey, which led to a 90% reduction in hockey-related eye injuries. Of those injured, no one was wearing the approved protective eyewear. In 1980, U.S. baseball followed suit and mandated batters wear helmets as a means of eye protection. In 1994, Dixie Baseball mandated the use of face shields for all players, and Little Leagues have since recommended the use of facemasks for all their players.

Several cities across the United States, in particular Chicago and New Orleans, have begun the crusade for mandatory eye protection for their children participating in school-sponsored athletics. In light of the statistics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly urges all athletes, and especially the parents of young athletes, to lobby for and support mandatory eye protection for young athletes in their home towns.

The mission of the American Academy of Ophthalmology is to achieve accessible, appropriate and affordable eye care for the public by serving the educational and professional needs of the ophthalmologist.

Sports Eye Safety Month Fact Sheet General

In 1988, up to 30% of ocular injuries in children under the age of 16 were sports related.

In 1990, sports were the major cause of eye injuries in school-age children.

In 1993, there were 41,000 sports-related eye injuries
29,110 (71%) under 25 years of age
16,810 (41%) under 15 years of age
2,460 (6%) under 5 years of age

In 1995, there were just under 50,000 sports-related eye injuries
9,290 (19%) under 15 years of age

In 1996, there were more than 100,000 sports-related eye injuries reported

Costs for these visits totaled more than $175 million.

Most common eye injuries associated with sports: abrasions and contusions, detached retinas, corneal lacerations, cataracts, hemorrhages and enucleations (loss of an eye).

Low risk sports: track & field; cross-country running; swimming and cycling.
High risk sports (with eye protection): hockey, lacrosse, racquetball, baseball, soccer, basketball and football.
High risk sports (no eye protection): boxing, wrestling and full contact martial arts.

The number one sport for eye injuries is baseball, followed by racquetball. The next group of sports is ice hockey, tennis, football, basketball and golf.

Most sports-related eye injuries are due to a ball making contact with the eye.

In children aged 15 and under, baseball accounts for the most eye injuries, and for those aged 15-24, basketball and football yield the highest injuries. In people aged 24 and over, racquet sports are responsible for the majority of eye injuries.

In Canada and Sweden, ice hockey accounts for the majority of eye injuries; in Holland, soccer is responsible for the majority of eye injuries.

Most common complaints regarding sports eye protection: limits vision, fogs, not macho and difficult to install onto helmets/masks.

When fitted properly, eye protection reduces risk of injury by 90%.

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Individual Sports

Baseball and Basketball

Baseball and basketball account for the most injuries in persons aged 5-24.

Ages 5 -14 21 % of injuries due to baseball, 16% due to basketball.
Ages 15-24 32% of injuries due to basketball, 15% due to baseball
Ages 25-64 21% of injuries due to basketball, 12% due to baseball
Most basketball injuries occur when the eye is poked with a finger or elbow.

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In 1971, the face mask was introduced.
1972-1973 = 287 eye injuries, with 20 blind eyes (in Canada)
1974-1975 = 258 eye injuries, with 43 blind eyes (in Canada)
1976-1977 = 90 eye injuries, with 12 blind eyes (in Canada) (Note: facemasks allowed but not required during play)

In the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, the average number of injuries "premask" was 273, with 32 blind eyes; the average number "post-mask" was 94, with 16 blind eyes; of those 94, not a single person injured was wearing the Canadian Standard Association's (CSA) certified eye protection

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Boxing, Wrestling, & Full Contact Martial Arts

There is no adequate eye protection for boxing, wrestling, or full contact martial arts.

Professional boxing was banned in Sweden in 1969 and in Norway in 1982 due to the high incidents of brain injury.

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Functionally one-eyed athletes (those with best-corrected visual acuity worse than 20/50 in the poorer-seeing eye) should never participate in boxing, wrestling, or full contact martial arts.

Athletes participating in high-risk sports should wear 3mm polycarbonate sports goggles that have been fitted by an eye care professional.

Polycarbonate lenses are twenty (20) times stronger than everyday streetwear, yet are clear enough to see through; they can withstand a projectile (or ball) traveling 90 mph.

Contact lenses offer no protection.

The most effective treatment for sports-related eye injuries is prevention; however, eye protection cannot work if the athlete does not wear it.

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