Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul then we must protect them!

Each year over 40,000 eye injuries are sustained in those participating in sports and recreation activities.

Among those between 5 and 24 years of age, baseball and basketball are associated with the most eye injuries. Being struck by a ball, errant finger, elbow or stick can have lifelong implications. True or false.

1. Eyeglasses offer adequate protection in sports.

2. Soccer is considered a high risk sport for eye injuries.

3. Polycarbonate lenses meet sport safety standards.

Athletes are often too young or too bold to make smart decisions about eye protection. Coaches and parents should consider the risk to eye injury when selecting protective equipment.

Braces, pads and shin guards are commonly worn but it is relatively rare to see protective eyewear unless the player has a history of eye trauma. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages all youth in organized sports to wear appropriate eye protection.

The AAP strongly recommends protective eyewear for all participants in sports in which there is a risk for eye injury.  In addition to baseball, softball and basketball, high risk sports include: lacrosse; hockey; boxing; racquetball and paintball.

Baseball and softball players are at high risk especially in the batter's box and on defense at first or third base. The batted ball can arrive at these corner positions and up the middle to the pitcher, faster than the player can react.

“Functionally one-eyed” athletes are those whose best vision, even with glasses or contact lenses, is worse than 20/40 in the poorer seeing eye.

These athletes risk severe vision impairment if the 'good eye' is injured. Therefore, it is recommended that they wear eye protection for all sports and recreation activity and perhaps consider an alternative, safer sport.

Previous injury or surgery may leave the eye more susceptible to injury, even years later. It is recommended that an ophthalmologist be consulted for a comprehensive examination and recommendation for protection and sports participation.

USA Lacrosse has strict rules for eye protection and more sports are following suit. 

Polycarbonate lenses and over-the-glasses eye-guards which meet sports standards can be purchased through eye professionals. Fashion sunglasses, eyeglasses or goggles are not sufficient.

They may shatter on impact and leave the eye vulnerable to injury. Make sure that your eye protection meets specifications set by the Protective Eyewear Certification Council.

Eye protection cannot completely eliminate the risk of injury.

However, studies have shown that risk is decreased by at least 90% among athletes who wear properly fitted eyewear.

As my mom would say, “The eyes are nothing to mess with.” A bruised leg is one thing, a bruised eye is another. Play safe.

Answers: 1. T 2. F 3. T