Keep your child's eye safety in mind as youth sports begin

As fall sports gear up, keep your child’s eye safety in mind

With the return to school, fall sports season is just around the corner and it’s important to keep your child's eye safety in mind if they're hitting the field or court.

We spoke with UK HealthCare’s John M. Franklin, MD, about the prevalence of eye injuries in youth sports and the best methods of reducing risk. Dr. Franklin is Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus at UK Advanced Eye Care.

What are the most common sports-related eye injuries treated in children and how prevalent are they?

The most common sports-related eye injuries are corneal abrasions and orbit fractures.

A corneal abrasion is when the top layer of the cornea is scraped off, usually from a fingernail or other semi-sharp object. An orbit fracture is a broken bone somewhere around the eye (the orbit is commonly called the “eye socket”).  

The pediatric ophthalmology department sees several of these injuries every year, ranging from very mild injuries where no treatment is needed to severe injuries requiring several surgeries to repair. 

What sort of long-term effects have you seen resulting from eye injuries incurred during youth sports?

Long-term effects can be highly variable. Sometimes there are no long-term effects. Occasionally, a corneal abrasion will result in recurrent erosions, where even the smallest event (like rubbing your eyelid) can loosen the top layer of the cornea and result in a painful abrasion nearly identical to the original injury. If an injury causes inflammation inside the eye, there can be scarring that leads to several problems, like abnormal pupil shape or even glaucoma.

Eye injury from sports can cause a cataract that requires surgery to remove. I perform pediatric cataract surgeries every year that are caused by injuries experienced during sports events.

Orbit fractures can result in double vision if a muscle is caught in the fracture or becomes scarred. Surgery is often necessary in those cases and it can be difficult to completely eliminate the double vision. 

What should parents consider, relative to eye safety, when considering whether to let their child play youth sports?

I would tell parents to let their kids play the sports they like, but understand that some risk is involved and that steps can be taken to reduce those risks.

What are the most important steps to take to ensure your child's eyes are protected during youth sports?

Sports glasses and goggles are great safety devices for nearly everyone playing sports.

Wearing the proper protective equipment is always smart. Also consider additional eye safety equipment where appropriate, like a visor on a helmet.

Lastly, a discussion of safety is appropriate for all ages. Teach the kids about eye safety (and safety in general) so that they may be better equipped to avoid injury. 

The UK HealthCare optical shops provide a variety of eye safety options for kids and adults. You can call the UK HealthCare - Turfland optical shop at 859-323-3045 and our optical shop at Shriners Hospital for Children at 859-323-3045. 

To make an appointment with UK Advanced Eye Care, call 859-323 5867.

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