Keep Your Kids’ Eyes Safe During Spring Sports Season
As the cold and dreary days of winter begin to melt away, restless children welcome warmer weather, longer days and the beginning of another season of spring sports and outdoor activities.
Participation in sports can teach children the importance of physical fitness and discipline, significant leadership skills and the benefits of being a team player, and outdoor activities encourage exercise and social interaction. While these are great outlets and learning opportunities for kids, they may also pose some risk of injury. Each year an estimated 25,000 children under the age of fifteen suffer sports-related eye injuries in the U.S., and most of these injuries are preventable. (Source: Prevent Blindness America)
Dr. Scott Lambert is a professor of ophthalmology at Emory University and a member of the advisory council for the Pediatric Cataract Initiative. This program is a global partnership between the Bausch + Lomb Early Vision Institute and Lions Clubs International Foundation that aims to protect children’s eyes from long-term vision problems and prevent childhood blindness. Dr. Lambert offers parents the following tips to help protect kids’ eyes during spring activities:
Protective eyewear should be as common in sports as helmets and protective padding. Trauma to the eye may cause minor, temporary injuries, but can also lead to long-term vision problems including bleeding in the eye, cataract or in some cases, blindness. Projectiles, such as tennis balls, baseballs and basketballs aren’t the only dangers to eyes. Pokes and jabs from other athletes may also lead to eye injuries. Dr. Lambert notes that many parents are surprised to learn that conditions such as cataract can occur in children and develop for a variety of reasons, including severe eye trauma. Tip: Select protective eyewear with contoured frames that wrap around a child’s face to protect the eye from all directions.
For children who wear glasses, protective eyewear is often overlooked. Dr. Lambert reminds parents that traditional glasses and sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection to children’s eyes, as lenses can break and cause shards of debris to fly into a child’s eye. Plastic and metal frames can bend or break, causing damage to a child’s face and eyes. Tip: Protective eyewear is available with or without a prescription in a variety of styles. Be sure that lenses are both impact and scratch resistant.
- Generally speaking, children spend more time outside and in the sun than most adults. “The damage that sun exposure does to our eyes is cumulative, meaning the danger to our eyes grows as we spend more and more time in the sun. Proper protection from UV rays is essential to keeping kids’ eyes safe and healthy,” said Dr Lambert. Prolonged exposure to UV rays has been linked to the onset of a variety of eye issues, including adult onset cataracts and macular degeneration, and Dr. Lambert recommends parents outfit their children with sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat to shield the child’s eyes from direct sunlight anytime they’re outside. Tip: Be sure sunglasses block both UVA and UVB rays. If parents are unsure about the protection level of kids’ glasses, ask an eye doctor. Most have access to tools, such as spectrophotometers, that can measure the amount of visible light and UV radiation the lenses block.
For more information about Dr. Scott Lambert and the Pediatric Cataract Initiative, visit www.pediatriccataract.org.