August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. As our children continue to enjoy their time outdoors and get ready for fall sports, it is a good opportunity to remind parents about the importance of eye protection and protective eyewear for athletes of all ages.
Sports-related eye injuries represent a significant eye health hazard worldwide and sports represent the number one cause of eye injuries in children under the age of sixteen. In the US, more than 600,000 eye injuries related to sports and recreation occur each year. More than 40,000 of these require Emergency Room attention and more than one-third of the victims are children. During my time in practice, all too often I treated kids with sports-related injuries such as abrasions of the cornea, bruising around the eyes and eye lids, and internal eye injuries including bleeding within the eye.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Optometric Association all strongly recommend protective eyewear for all participants in sports in which there is a risk of eye injury. As an Ophthalmologist, and as a parent of two girls who enjoy playing sports, I strongly recommend you talk to your Eye Care Professional about eye protection that has been tested for impact resistance to make sure the different materials do not shatter. Glasses and sunglasses designed for daily use are not designed to protect eyes during sports.
I also suggest parents talk to their Eye Care Professional about contact lenses, which can help eliminate some of the visual distortions that may occur with corrective glasses. Research suggests that contact lenses may provide benefits over glasses in sports, such as a wider field of view and elimination of blind spots associated with glasses. However, it is important to realize that for some sports protective eyewear may still be necessary.
On our Healthy Vision(TM) with Dr. Val Jones podcast series, parents can learn about steps to take to protect their children’s eyes during sports and recreation, why certain sports carry more risk for eye injury, how to know if an eye injury is serious enough to require medical attention, as well as the risks of not having an eye injury examined by your eye care doctor. Take a listen!
Brian Schwam, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, responsible for global Regulatory, Clinical and Medical Affairs. Prior to joining the company, Dr. Schwam practiced ophthalmology both in private practice and at the Mayo Clinic, where he was Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology. Dr. Schwam received his Medical Degree from the Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. He completed his Ophthalmology Residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and his Fellowship in Cornea and External Diseases at the New England Eye Center, Tufts University School of Medicine and Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston. Dr. Schwam, his wife, and their two daughters reside in Jacksonville, Florida. During his spare time, he enjoys playing tennis, traveling with his family, and playing volleyball with his daughters.