FRIDAY, April 1, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- As warmer weather nears and people gear up to play sports like baseball and soccer, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) advises athletes that they can reduce their risk of eye injury by wearing protective eyewear.
The experts say that more than 40,000 sports-related eye injuries occur in the United States each year and more than one-third of those victims are children.
"Athletes need to use protective eyewear because eye injuries can be devastating," Dr. Alberto Martinez, a clinical correspondent for the AAO, said in an academy news release.
"Eye injuries are one of the leading causes of visual impairment in children. The injuries range from abrasions of the cornea and bruises of the lids to internal eye injuries, such as retinal detachments and internal bleeding. Unfortunately, some of these young athletes end up with permanent vision loss and blindness," he said.
"The solution is simple, wear eye protection anytime you are playing sports, especially those that involve small balls at high velocity," Martinez added.
As part of Sports Eye Safety Month in April, the academy urges athletes of all ages to wear appropriate, sport-specific protective eyewear. Lenses made from polycarbonate materials can withstand the impact of a projectile traveling at 90 miles per hour and offer the best protection.
Activity-specific protective eyewear is available for many kinds of sports, including baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, lacrosse and paintball.
Many children's sports leagues don't require participants to wear protective eyewear, so parents must make their youngsters wear eye protection, Martinez explained.
"Parents also can set a good example by wearing eye protection when playing sports," he noted.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about sports and eye injuries.