Optometrists urge parents to take steps to ensure eye safety when children play sports

August 28, 2013

FRANKFORT – Now that children have headed back to school, the fall sports season also is under way.

That means parents must take precautions to ensure their children’s eye safety. According to Prevent Blindness America, approximately 40,000 eye injuries take place in the United States during sports or recreational activities each year, and some will lead to irreversible vision loss. Almost one-third of sports-related eye injuries occur in children between the ages of 5 and 14.

“Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in America, and most injuries occurring in school-aged children are sports-related,” said Dr. Laurel Van Horn, an optometrist in Benton, Ky. “The results of an eye injury can range from temporary to permanent vision loss, so it’s important that parents take the proper steps when their children play sports.”

However, many adults are unaware of the risk, according to a 2013 survey from the American Optometric Association. It showed that only 6 percent of respondents were concerned about sustaining an eye injury while playing sports, and only half of parents make sure their children wear eye protection during contact sports.

The good news, Van Horn said, is that 90 percent of these injuries are preventable with the proper use of eye protection on the playing field. Van Horn and the Kentucky Optometric Association have the following tips for eye and vision safety while playing sports:

Always wear protective eyewear during team or contact sports;

Keep street eyewear off the playing field. Conventional frames and lenses often do not meet the minimum requirements for impact resistance in most sports; and

When shopping for protective eyewear, make sure the equipment conforms to the American Society for Testing and Materials specifications for that particular sport.

To find an optometrist in your area, please visit www.kyeyes.org.