Protective eyewear can help prevent many of the 40,000 sports-related eye injuries that occur to children each year.
The sports that cause most of these injuries are basketball, baseball, pool sports and racket sports. But any sport that involves a projectile is considered hazardous to the eyes, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).
To help prevent sports eye injuries, children should use protective athletic eyewear, even if they wear eyeglasses.
Parents can help protect their children's eyes by choosing the right eyewear. Here are suggestions from the AOA:
For high-risk sports such as baseball or softball, tennis, badminton, basketball or volleyball, one-piece plastic sports frames with prescription or non-prescription polycarbonate lenses allow for clear vision, as well as protection. Plenty of frames on the market today meet these qualifications yet maintain fashionable looks.
For lower-risk sports such as cycling or in-line skating, look for sturdy eyeglass frames with polycarbonate lenses.
Some special features parents and kids might want to consider: padded or rubber bridges for comfort; deep-grooved eye wires so lenses won't fall out if the frame is hit hard; a face-formed shape for a wider field of view; and headband attachments to secure the frames on the head.
Kids who spend a lot of time swimming should check out protective goggles that hold either prescription or non-prescription lenses for swimming, water skiing or snorkeling.
Street hockey enthusiasts and football players need extra protection. They should wear eye-face guards designed for wearing over other glasses.
Contact lens wearers also need protective athletic eyewear, the AOA says. Contacts alone do not provide protection.
What should parents do if a child does get hit in the eye? Take the child to a hospital emergency room or to an eye doctor. Some kids may see stars or spots or notice a change in their vision, but damage from a blow isn't always so apparent, even right after it happens, the AOA says.