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Eye Health: A summer of sports can be fun, but dangerous without protective eyewear

Even though there are no flying objects involved, swimming can also be dangerous for the eyes without proper protective goggles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Even though there are no flying objects involved, swimming can also be dangerous for the eyes without proper protective goggles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

By Dr. Dawn Stratton
KyForward columnist

With just a few weeks left in the school year, do you have visions of ballparks in your future? With two young sons, we basically spend the summer months watching baseball. While I enjoy the games, as an eye doctor, I am always thinking about eye protection for the players.
Prevent Blindness America reports that hospital emergency rooms treat more than 40,000 eye injuries every year that are sports related. Even non-contact sports can present inherent dangers to the eyes.
Many eye injuries come from pokes and jabs by fingers and elbows, particularly in games where players are in close contact with one another. Basketball has an extremely high rate of eye injury, but so does swimming where no flying objects are involved.

Wearing protective eyewear for sports pays off in several ways: the risk of eye damage is reduced and the player’s performance is enhanced by the ability to see better. Much like bike helmets, sports glasses/goggles are an accepted part of life.
Sports glasses are eyeglasses specially designed to: 1) fit securely and comfortably during physical activity, 2) keep eyes safe and 3) enhance vision to give you an extra performance “edge” in the sports played.
Facts about sports eyewear:
• Sports goggles are made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Lenses usually are made of polycarbonate. Since polycarbonate is such an impact-resistant lens material, it works well to protect eyes from fast-moving objects. Polycarbonate also has built-in ultraviolet protection, which is valuable for outdoor sports.
• Photochromic lenses are also a good option. These lenses are clear indoors and change automatically to a medium or dark sunglass-shade outdoors, depending on the intensity of sunlight. Photochromic lenses are terrific for golf where you move frequently from bright sunlight to shade during the course of a round. They also work great for any outdoor sport on days when it’s partly sunny, partly cloudy.
• Most sport frames can accommodate both prescription and nonprescription lenses. Some sports styles are contoured, wrapping slightly around the face. This type of goggle works well for biking, hang-gliding and sailing. Contact lens wearers especially benefit from the wraparound style, as it helps keep out wind and dust.
• Sport goggles must be properly fitted to the individual wearer. This is particularly important with children because the normal temptation is to purchase a larger goggle than is needed so the youngster has “room to grow.” Some growing room is acceptable, but if the frames are too large and don’t fit properly, the amount of protection they provide will be compromised.
I encourage you to review the fit of your child’s sport goggles each year to ensure they are still providing proper protection. Make sure the padding inside the sides of the goggle rests flush with the face and the eyes are centered both horizontally and vertically in the lens area.

Never use “dress” eyeglasses during sports. They are not made to the same protective standards as safety eyewear and will probably not hold up under impact. Eyeglass lenses that are not safety-rated could shatter causing serious eye injuries.

• Finally, see a qualified eye doctor for additional advice about the best frames and lenses for your particular sport. Your optician’s help in frame selection is critical because the proper fit of sports eyewear is very important for both safety and comfort.



Dr. Dawn Stratton, O.D., is the founder of Stratton Eyes. She is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago and earned her Doctor of Optometry in 1994. Based in Lexington, Dr. Stratton is a member of American Optometric Association, the Kentucky Optometric Association, the National Association of Professional Women and the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists. She also provides eye exams for patients at the Hope Center, Room at the Inn and The Nest. Visit Stratton-Eyes.com for more information or call 859-245-2020 or email office@strattoneyes.com. You can also find the office on Facebook and on Twitter @StrattonEyes.

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