Jun 18, 2015 1:00 AM

Author: Moran Eye Center

People don’t realize that an initial injury—maybe from a hard hit to the side of the eye with a soccer ball—might not manifest until years later, but can result in glaucoma, hemorrhaging, or retinal detachment.”  — M.E. Hartnett, MD 

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), every 13 minutes an ER in the United States treats a sports-related eye injury—caused by everything from elbow jabs in basketball games to baseball and paintball games gone wrong. And that’s only part of the bad news. “Despite advances in medical and surgical care, the ability to save or restore vision from eye trauma has not increased much in the past 20 years,” says M.E. Hartnett, MD. Prevention, Dr. Hartnett stresses, is the only answer.

“Just think how far we’ve come with protective head gear to prevent concussions. We want to see the same push in requiring eye protection in sports.”

Hartnett, who has seen her share of serious injuries, including ruptured globes that require “enucleation” (a term you really don’t want to hear from your surgeon, as it means removing the entire eye) and shattered eye sockets, has a special interest in changing policies for required sports eye gear. She’s aware of the challenges, but she says that a little prevention can go a long way.

“I have talked to athletes about this and they tell me that if you make someone wear goggles and they think it affects their ability to win, they are not going to wear them. But if everyone is required to wear protection, from an early age, then that’s a game-changer. Protective eyewear made from polycarbonate—which is 10 times stronger than other plastics—is readily available at sporting goods stores and optical shops,” Hartnett notes. “Starting kids young and requiring protection for scholastic sports is a strong first move.”

For more information on protective eyewear requirements for each sport, visit: http://www.nei.nih.gov/sports/findingprotection.

sports medicine vision safety

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