SUNDAY, Aug. 12, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- The start of training for school sports can bring a surge of sports-related eye injuries among young athletes, even though it's possible to prevent such injuries, an expert says.
"As training season begins, and as children resume practice, emergency rooms across the country may see an influx of eye injuries from sports -- yet most of these injuries are highly preventable by wearing protective goggles," pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Repka, of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and deputy director of ophthalmology at Hopkins Children's Center, said in a Hopkins news release.
Nine out of 10 such injuries can be prevented by using safety eyewear consistently, according to the release.
Pediatricians should educate parents, young athletes and coaches about the dangers of eye injuries and encourage the use of eye protection, especially for high-risk sports such as baseball, softball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer and fencing, Repka advised.
Mild injuries such as eyelid bruises and corneal abrasions usually cause no long-term damage, but serious injuries can have lasting effects. High-impact injuries can lead to internal bleeding or fracture the bone around the eye, which may require surgery, the release noted.
Parents should seek immediate medical attention for their child if the child has any of these eye problems: cuts or punctures; redness, itching or irritation; discharge or excessive tearing; swelling of the eye or surrounding area; deep pain, pain behind the eyes or unexplained headaches; floaters or flashes in the field of vision, or partial loss of vision.
"Eye injuries at an early age can have serious and life-long consequences for the young athlete that go beyond missing a game or two and can sometimes lead to permanent eye damage and loss of vision," Repka said.
August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month.
Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States and most eye injuries in school-age children are sports-related, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. About 100,000 sports-related eye injuries occur each year in the United States, and children account for nearly half those cases.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about eye injuries in sports.