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Protective Eyewear Urged for Young Athletes

Safety Eyewear Recommended to Reduce Sports-Related Eye Injuries
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WebMD Health News

March 2, 2004 -- New recommendations call for all young athletes to protect their eyes when playing sports, and that doesn't mean merely slapping on a pair of sunglasses.

Researchers say more than 42,000 sports and recreation-related eye injuries were reported in 2000. Of those injuries, 72% occurred among individuals under age 25 and 43% occurred in children under 15.

The new policy, released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, strongly recommends protective eyewear for all participants in sports in which there is a risk of injury. It also states that protective eyewear should be mandatory for athletes who are functionally one-eyed and for those who have suffered a previous eye injury or trauma.

The type of protective eyewear recommended varies by sport, but experts say polycarbonate is the most shatter-resistant clear lens material and should be used in all safety eyewear. Fashion sunglasses are not recommended for sports with a risk of eye injury.

Researchers say that although protective eyewear cannot completely eliminate the risk of injury, use of appropriate eye protectors has been shown to reduce the risk of major eye injuries by at least 90%.

Ranking Eye-Injury Risks in Sports

The report, published in the March issue of Pediatrics, also assessed the eye-injury risk posed by various sports based on their popularity and incidence of eye injuries.

  • High risk. Sports and activities that use projectiles or involve intentional injury, such as paintball, basketball, baseball/softball, cricket, lacrosse, squash, racquetball, fencing, boxing, and full-contact martial arts.
  • Moderate risk. Tennis, badminton, soccer, volleyball, water polo, football, fishing, and golf.
  • Low risk.Swimming, diving, skiing (snow and water), noncontact martial arts, wrestling, and bicycling.
  • Eye safe. Track and field (although javelin and discus have a small but definite eye-injury risk) and gymnastics.

Baseball and basketball were associated with the most eye injuries in athletes between 5 and 24 years old.

In addition to wearing properly fitted and sport-specific protective eyewear, the report recommends that young athletes discard sports eye protectors that are damaged or yellowed with age.

Finding the Right Protective Eyewear

Researchers say eye protection for each sport varies dramatically in the way they fit and in their ability to protect against eye injury. They recommend consulting an experienced ophthalmologist, optometrist, optician, physician, or athletic trainer to select the most appropriate protective eyewear for the participant.

There are generally four basic types eyewear, and only two types are recommended for eye-injury risk sports.

Types of recommended safety sports eyewear include:

  1. Sports eyewear that conforms to the requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard F803 for selected sports (racket sports, baseball fielders, basketball, women's lacrosse, and field hockey).
  2. Sports eyewear that is attached to a helmet or in sports for which ASTM standard F803 is inadequate. For example, there is standard eyewear designed to meet additional specifications in high-risk activities, such as youth baseball batting and base running, skiing, ice hockey, football, and men's lacrosse.

Two types of eyewear that are not recommended to reduce the risk of eye injury in sports include:

  1. Streetwear or fashion sunglasses and spectacles.
  2. Safety eyewear designed for industrial or educational use.

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