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Fitted Sports Gear Key to Eye Protection

40,000 injuries a year could be cut with appropriate use of safety lenses

FRIDAY, March 23, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Each year in the United States, about 40,000 people -- a third of them children -- suffer sports-related eye injuries that could be prevented by wearing appropriate, sport-specific protective eyewear that's been properly fitted by an eye-care specialist, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

"Athletes need to choose to use protective eyewear, because eye injuries can be devastating," Dr. Monica L. Monica, clinical correspondent for the AAO, said in a prepared statement. The group has designated April as "Sports Eye Safety Month."

"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," Monica said.

Many children's sports leagues don't require athletes to use protective eyewear, so parents must insist that their children wear eye protection.

"Parents also can set a good example by wearing eye protection when playing sports and work to help pass local ordinances requiring children to wear protective eyewear when engaging in sports," Monica said.

Adult and child athletes can choose from a variety of lightweight and sturdy protective eyewear that doesn't hinder performance, said Dr. M. Bowes Hamill, associate professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and clinical correspondent for the AAO.

Lenses in protective eyewear should be made of polycarbonate, which can withstand impact from a ball or other projectile traveling at up to 90 miles an hour.

"Contact lenses offer no protection, and street glasses are inadequate to protect against any type of eye injury," Hamill said.

If you do suffer an eye injury, seek immediate medical attention, he added.

More information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more about sports eye protection.

SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology, news release, March 15, 2007
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