Why protective sports eyewear is important

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A sprained ankle cannot change a child’s life, but an eye injury can.
Protective sports eyewear is similar to seatbelts, car seats and bicycle helmets. Even though in some cases not very popular, they are vital pieces of equipment that protect children from serious injury.
Sport is one of the single most important causes of serious eye injuries. Balls, overenthusiastic sticks, flying arms during defensive plays – all in which eye injuries are way too common in sports.
But while we go to great lengths to protect ourselves against broken bones, concussions and even blisters, we often forget to prevent scratched corneas, fractured eye sockets and permanent vision loss.
There are various types of sports eyewear designed to not only protect your eyes and your vision, but to enhance your athletic performance.
Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children and most injuries occurring in school-aged children are sports related. Over 50% of children play organized sport. School-aged competitors are particularly prone to eye injuries since their athletic skill (hand eye coordination, balance, reaction time and speed) are still developing.
Some of the statistics show that 66% of all sports eye injuries occur in participants between the ages of 5 and 24 while practising. One in 18 university athletes sustain an eye injury each season. More than 600 000 eye injuries are related to sport each year.
An estimated 85% of children do not wear protective sports eyewear in a situation that present a high risk of eye injury. 90% of sports related eye injuries can be avoided with the use of protective eyewear.
Fortunately, coaches, parents and players now realize that wearing protective eyewear for sports pays off in several ways. The risk of eye damage is reduced and the player performance is enhanced by the ability to see better.
Initially, there was some resistance by children to looking funny when they wore protective eyewear. Today, sports eyewear is an accepted part of everyday life, much the way bike helmets have become routine in your family. Both children and adults like the image that wearing protective eyewear gives them: It shows they mean business on the playing field.
Eye injuries can be divided into 4 categories:
• Corneal abrasions – damage to the front part of the eye
• Blunt trauma – eye is compressed through sudden impact
• Penetrating injuries – Cause the eye to rupture
• Ultraviolet radiation – damage to the cornea and retina(sunburn, cancer)
Sports eyewear is made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Lenses in sports eyewear are usually made of polycarbonate. It’s 10x more resistance than any other plastic, does not reduce vision and protect eyes from fast moving objects (fully capable of withstanding the impact of a ball travelling at 140km per hour). It also has built-in ultraviolet protection- valuable feature for outdoor sports.
The eyewear frame plays an important role – different sports require different types of frames, which led to sport specific frame designs. Most sport frames can accommodate both prescription and non-prescription lenses. Also constructed out of highly impact resistant plastic, and comes with rubber or foam padding where it comes in contact with your face and nose area, retaining band and a venting system. Frames are contoured, wrapping slightly around the face, keeping the wind and dust out and giving maximum peripheral viewing as well.
Some of the options for athletes are goggles (snowboarding, biking, skiing), glasses (squash, tennis volleyball), face masks (hockey, paintball), shields, sunglasses (golf), helmets (cricket) and streetwear frames. As well as looking at coatings for UV and glare protection and enhancing the colour of lenses is very popular, like yellow, amber, rose and copper colours being the most common. Yellow tint helping tennis players see the ball more clearly against stadium walls and transition lenses being ideal for golfers.
Ball and stick sports like squash, tennis and golf, objects are at high speeds, eyewear need to be non-slip and non-fogging eye guards with polycarbonate lenses.
Sport and swimming goggles are great for water sports with high wind and hectic weather conditions as well as critical for blocking out UV and performance enhancing glare.
Sports eyewear must be individually fitted to each child. If frame don’t fit properly, the amount of protection will be compromised, increasing the risk of injury and leading to poor performance. As well as the frame being uncomfortable, the child will be tempted to take them off.
Protective sports eyewear should be fitted by an eye care professional to be sport-specific and comfortable, also why regular eye tests are necessary to pick up any irregularities. Performing with less than 20/20 vision is counterproductive.
Some factors to consider when it comes to safety eyewear on the field:
• Should be made of polycarbonate lenses
• Meet the requirements necessary
• Reflect logo on lenses
• Make sure the lenses are designed to pop outwards in an accident
• Allow time to adjust to your safety eyewear
• Keep eyewear on at all times during the activity
Now that you are educated – take action to help prevent a child from becoming a statistic. Whether you are a parent, coach or teacher, you can encourage schools to a mandatory policy on protective eyewear. We protect our children against broken bones and bruises – why not protect them from blindness too?
Article supplied by Spec-Savers