SATURDAY, May 10, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Every year in the United States, about 40,000 people suffer sports-related eye injuries, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), which recommends that all athletes wear appropriate, sports-specific eye protection properly fitted by an eye-care professional.
Lenses made from polycarbonate materials offer the highest level of impact protection. These lenses can withstand the force of a ball or other projectile traveling at 90 miles per hour, according to the AAO.
"It's absolutely necessary for athletes to use protective eyewear because eye injuries can be devastating," Dr. Ruth Williams, a glaucoma specialist at the Wheaton, Ill., Eye Clinic and an AAO clinical correspondent, said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, many athletes feel they don't need protective eyewear or that injuries are uncommon."
Examples of sports-related eye injuries include corneal abrasions, eyelid bruising, retinal detachment and internal bleeding. Consequences can include infection and vision loss, and people who've suffered eye injuries have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
Eye protection is available for most sports, including basketball, baseball, hockey, football, lacrosse, fencing, paintball, water polo and golf.
"Wearing properly fitted protective eyewear will not harm your performance in a game, and it may save your sight," Williams said.
Because eye protection isn't mandatory in most children's sports leagues, parents need to make sure their children wear eye protection.
"Parents can spare their children needless injury and pain by having them wear protective eyewear," Williams said.
If a person does suffer an eye injury, it's important to seek immediate medical help. Even a seemingly minor impact can cause serious injury. If a black eye, pain or visual problem occurs after an eye has been hit, contact an eye doctor or seek emergency medical help, the AAO said.
Prevent Blindness America offers a list of recommended sports eye protectors.