Protecting Your Children’s Eyes: A Useful Guide for Parents of Young Athletes

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If you still have doubts about encouraging your children to get into sports and be more physically active, a study published by the US President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition Science Board might help point you in the right direction. According to a study, 73% of parents believe sports provide various physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. This popular opinion is warranted since physically active children have:

  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Better weight status
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Enhanced cognitive performance
  • Reduced amounts of anxiety and depression
  • Higher self-esteem and life satisfaction

However, there are several steps you have to take before encouraging your children to start being active in sports. There are a number of factors you have to consider to ensure they excel, enjoy, and stay safe as they become young athletes. A leading eye specialist for kids says one of the first things you have to prioritize is knowing how to help them protect their eyes whenever they engage in sports and other physical activities.

Keeping Your Children’s Eyes Safe When They Play Sports

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says that around 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated yearly in the USA alone. Sports are also the primary cause of most school-age children’s eye injuries. However, most of those injuries are preventable. This means there are ways you can help your children protect their eyes when they engage in their chosen sport. Below are some of these ways:

1. Have your kids undergo a comprehensive eye exam.

Before letting your kids participate in sports, have their eyes checked. Keep in mind that your children can’t shoot, hit, or dodge the ball if they can’t see clearly. All athletes, regardless of their age, experience, and level of expertise, need certain visual skills to enjoy and excel in playing sports. These include:

  • Visual acuity
  • Depth perception
  • Eye focusing
  • Eye tracking
  • Eye-hand coordination

A comprehensive eye exam allows your ophthalmologist to check if your children have these visual skills and more so they can engage in their chosen sport well and safely. Moreover, the tests can ascertain if your kids’ visual skills are at acceptable levels or if they need vision correction treatments to help them see more clearly in order to play well and safely. Even if your kids undergo a yearly vision screening in school, bringing them to an ophthalmologist before they start playing sports is always a good idea.

2. Be aware of the risks each sport presents.

Athletes can get eye injuries in various ways from different types of sports. For instance, basketball players can be subjected to blunt force eye trauma from an elbow or shoulder blow. The batted balls that come with playing baseball and softball can cause eye injuries as well. The flying pucks and balls involved in playing hockey, racquetball, and squash are also common causes of eye injuries. On the other hand, swimming, diving, gymnastics, and track and field are some sports with a low risk of eye injury.

Although football is a contact sport, players wear helmets with protective face visors. Because of this, it poses a moderate risk for eye injuries. When you know these potential risks, you can have a good idea of how you can help your kids protect their eyes when they play these sports.

You can use this as a guide:

  • If your kids want to take up football or rugby, ensure they wear sports eye guards or a polycarbonate face guard that attaches to their helmets.
  • If they want to play basketball, baseball, and soccer, you would do well to get them good-quality sports eye guards for their protection.
  • If your children prefer hockey, you can help protect their eyes by getting them a wire or polycarbonate mask or sports eye guard.
  • In case your kids want to participate in contact sports, select eye guards or glasses with padding at the nose and brow.
  • If your children want to take up water sports and activities, get them eyewear with UV protection to protect their eyes from glare and sunburn.

You can consult your kids’ ophthalmologist for the best eye gear to protect them whenever they participate in their chosen sport.

3. Get your children prescription protective eye gear.

If your kids are already wearing vision correction glasses, you have to invest in additional eyewear that can give them better protection whenever they participate in sports. Your children’s ophthalmologist may recommend safety goggles with prescription lenses for them. This specialized eyewear can protect the eye area effectively since they are made with polycarbonate, which is 10 times tougher than regular plastic.

Polycarbonate goggles are extremely strong that they won’t easily break or shatter into the wearer’s eyes upon impact. If your kids prefer (or need to be) wearing prescription sports glasses, ensure the lenses are also made of polycarbonate so they won’t break easily. Choose an eyepiece with strong frames as well. Additionally, secure the glasses with a strap so they won’t fall easily when your kids start making fast and sudden movements. If you are unsure which type of protective eyewear for your children, consult an eye specialist.

4. Invest in backup protective eye gear.

No matter how durable your kids’ protective eyewear are, they can still break, get chipped, or damaged, which would render them useless and unsafe to wear. Moreover, your children may misplace their eye gear before or after a game, which means they might not be able to wear one during the game. It is best to err on the side of caution and have backup protective eyewear ready for your kids so that they can always have something to wear when they play.

Pack this backup protective eyewear in your children’s bags to ensure they can wear it immediately when they break or lose their regular eye gear.

5. Be on the lookout for signs of eye injuries.

Some sports-related eye injuries are noticeable so that you can spot them quickly and give your child immediate care, which includes bringing them to a doctor. However, some injuries, particularly those caused by blunt force trauma, may injure the internal part or the back of the eye. In this instance, most signs and symptoms are not easily observable, but these issues still require immediate treatment. 

Knowing the most common signs of an eye injury and teaching them to your kids can help them get the urgent care and treatment they need. And this will minimize their risks of more serious conditions and hasten their recovery. Some signs and symptoms of eye injuries that should not be ignored include:

  • Intense eye pain.
  • Loss of vision.
  • Double vision or images.
  • Blood or pus in the eye.
  • A cut on the eye or around it and on the eyelid.
  • Swollen eyes.

With these tips, you can help your children experience the benefits of playing sports and keep their eyes protected at all times.

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