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The importance of eye protection when playing sports

By Wyatt Dilling on June 22, 2022 in Vision Health


Did you know only about 15% of kids wear eye protection when playing sports.

Youth sports are an important part of growing up. Sports get kids moving, teaches teamwork, and who knows maybe your little sport will be the next Michael Jordan or Venus Williams. Before you send your little one out on the court or field, you will want to make sure they are properly equipped. This may mean pads, helmets, shin guards, and other body protection. Yet, many parents do not think about protecting their child’s eyes. In fact, only about 15% of kids wear eye protection when playing sports. Let’s look at the importance of eye protection and how to prevent serious eye injuries while playing sports.

Sports that need protective eye care

What sports come to mind when you think of eye injuries?  It’s likely action sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking. However, there are other activities such as basketball, hockey, and soccer that have a risk of eye injury. Although many traditional sports don’t require eye protection, parents and players should consider adding it to their list of protective equipment.

Below is a chart of activities with varying risks of eye injuries:

Did you know only about 15% of kids wear eye protection when playing sports

Some sports, such as paintball and fencing, have a high risk of eye injury and require players to wear eye protection. However, sports such as hockey, baseball, and softball also have a high risk of eye injury and don’t require eye protection. Unfortunately, significant injuries can occur if a player takes a hockey puck or ball to the eye. Players of these sports should not only wear a helmet but also a face guard or sports eye goggles for added protection

Sports such as biking, skiing, snowboarding, and swimming have a lower injury risk, but that doesn’t mean injuries don’t occur. Bikers should wear eye protection to prevent small items such as rocks or sand from entering their eyes. Skiers and snowboarders get multiple benefits from wearing goggles. Goggles prevent debris from getting in the eyes, and many types also have protection against the sun. Eye damage while outdoors can occur due to the sun reflecting off the snow, the high UV radiation that comes along with higher elevation, and cold, dry, or windy conditions.

Eye protection can also help prevent infections in some cases. Swim goggles protect the eyes from chlorine, bacteria, and other chemicals. These chemicals can cause irritation and other eye medical problems.

Types of sport-related eye injuries

Here are some of the types of eye injuries that can occur when playing sports:

  • Corneal Abrasion: This occurs when the cornea, or the “transparent part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil,” is scratched or injured. This tends to happen when a small object such as a pebble, dirt, toys, or a ball hits the eye.
  • Hyphema: This is bleeding in and around the eye, usually after being struck by something. If this appears, it is crucial to get you or your child medical care immediately.
  • Bruised/Black Eye: Also known as “Ecchymosis”, this is the most common eye injury you see. A black eye occurs after being struck in the eye causing the tissue surrounding the eye to bruise. Gently press a cold pack with ice on the area that is bruised to reduce the swelling.
  • Fractures: This occurs when one or more bones surrounding the eye are broken. This is usually caused by a significant impact on the eye area. Orbital fractures can cause severe damage to the eye so going to see an eye doctor is imperative.
  • Eyelid Laceration: Eyelid lacerations are scratches or cuts that occur on the eyelid. If this happens to your child you must have an eye physician examine the cornea, pupil, and retina to make sure the laceration doesn’t impair your child’s vision.

Choosing the right eye protection

Different types of sports glasses and goggles are available for reasonable prices. Here are some of the most common options:

  • Sports Glasses: Also known as “rec specs,” these are more common in sports with limited contact or lower intensity.
  • Sports Goggles: These are used more commonly in sports with high speeds and the potential for contact. This is because sports goggles stay on your face much better than sports glasses do.
  • Prescription Lenses Options: Sports goggles and sports glasses both come with prescription options. Click here for a selection.

Glasses or goggle lenses can differ depending on what sport you are playing, as well as the position within that sport. Before selecting protective eyewear, be sure to ask your vision specialist for recommendations.

Lastly, it is important that whatever type of eye protection you get fits your child. Eye protection that doesn’t fit correctly can compromise their vision, which could result in serious injury.

Eye injuries can come when you least expect them, so take the proper precautions for your child.

Looking for more information on keeping your eyes healthy? Check out this blog: