Health Watch -- Protect Your Eyes

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

When you gear up for a sporting event, do you remember to take care of your eyes?

You've got a helmet to protect your head, pads for your knees and elbows, shin guards if you play soccer, but what about your eyes? The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that there are 100,000 sports-related eye injuries every year in the United States.

When you consider that the average 12-year-old can throw a baseball 70 miles an hour and a racquetball can travel up to 140 miles an hour, it's easy to see how eye injuries could occur. Ophthalmologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that getting hit in the eye by one of these balls could not only take you out of the game, but also have a big impact on your life. Eye injuries can cause permanent blindness or vision impairment.

Dr. James McCulley, UT Southwestern's chairman of ophthalmology, says up to 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries could be prevented if people just used proper protection.

The best way to prevent sports-related eye injuries is with proper protective gear. Ordinary eyeglasses don't provide enough protection. Instead, look for protective polycarbonate lenses with side shields, available in most sporting goods stores. Prescription sports eyewear is also available. Wear eye protection when participating in a sport that involves objects like baseballs and racquetballs moving toward you at a high rate of speed. This applies both to kids and to adults.