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April 11, 2006 > Protect Your Eyes and Stay in the Game

Protect Your Eyes and Stay in the Game

April is Sports Eye Safety Month

Whether it's organized sports or just hitting the ball around, don't forget the eye protection when you pack your gear. Every year more than 40,000 athletes suffer eye injuries, which are mostly preventable, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

The AAO is urging athletes and sports enthusiasts to protect your eyes while playing sports during Sports Eye Safety Month this April. It's especially important for children, who are often involved in organized sports, because eye injuries are a leading cause of visual impairment in kids, according to the AAO.

Many children's sports leagues, schools and teams don't require their young athletes to wear eye protection. Parents should insist that children wear the appropriate eye protection every time they play.

"Anyone who engages in sports should wear protective eye gear," said Dr. Fang Tan, a Washington Hospital ophthalmologist. "Damaging your eyes can have life-altering consequences. Eye injuries can lead to blindness."

For young athletes, baseball and basketball account for the largest number of injuries, according to the AAO. Consider that Little League pitchers can throw the ball up to 70 miles per hour, fast enough to break bones and do serious damage to the eye. In basketball, it's hard to avoid occasional contact with flying elbows and fingers.

But baseball and basketball aren't the only sports that contribute to the thousands of eye injuries each year. Football, hockey, soccer, tennis, golf and water sports can also be very dangerous for the eyes.
Proper Eye Gear Prevents Injuries

Common eye injuries from sports can range from bruises on the eyelids and abrasions on the cornea to internal eye injuries such as anterior chamber hemorrhage, lens dislocation, retinal contusion or detachment, internal bleeding and ruptured globe. Retinal detachment is very dangerous because the retina is in the back of the eye and receives the visual image.

According to the AAO, 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented with the proper protective eye gear. Specific eyewear is available for just about every sport.

Most protective eyewear, including goggles and face shields and guards, should be made of polycarbonate plastic and properly fitted.

Today's sports enthusiasts have a wide variety of sturdy, lightweight, effective and fashionable eyewear available to them and there is no evidence that wearing protective eye gear hampers athletic performance. In fact, many famous athletes, including NBA All-Star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, have excelled at their respective sports while wearing protective eye gear.

"There's no reason not to wear it," Tan said. "Protective eyewear is readily available and it can prevent a life-long visual impairment - even blindness - and improve your quality of life."

For more information about eye safety and a list of recommended eye gear for each sport, visit

Washington Township Health Care District has been committed to serving District residents since it was formed in 1948. For more information about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, visit

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