News Releases

April 3, 2008

Emory Eye Center Urges Protective Eyewear for Children Playing Sports
National Healthy Vision Month Promotes Safety and Prevention of Eye Injuries

Media contact:
Joy Bell, 404-778-3711, jbell@emory.edu

(ATLANTA) Emory Eye Center physicians join other eye centers around the country in celebrating Healthy Vision Month in May. Devoted to promoting vision objectives within the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Healthy People 2010 initiative, this year’s Healthy Vision Month urges the use of personal protective eyewear in recreational activities and hazardous situations around the home.

The National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the NIH, urges parents and coaches to encourage their young athletes to put on protective eyewear along with their team uniforms and gear.

Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, and many of those injuries are sports-related. Reports from the NEI state that 90
percent of those injuries could be prevented with the use of correct protective eyewear. An estimated 27 percent of all eye injuries in children aged 11 to 14 are sports-related, says the NEI, and children under age 15 account for 43 percent of sports and recreational eye injuries overall.
“Unfortunately we treat many children with eye injuries that are sports related,” says Amy Hutchinson, pediatric ophthalmologist at Emory Eye Center. “Although many of these injuries respond well to treatment, severe and permanent visual loss can result. It is always so distressing for the child and his or her parents who
realize that permanent loss of vision could have been prevented if appropriate eye protection had been worn.

"Eye protection is important for all children who engage in high risk sports activities, but is absolutely essential for children who are monocular,” says Hutchinson. “These children are at higher risk of trauma to their seeing eye than individuals with two seeing eyes. Loss of vision in their seeing eye could markedly affect their ability to function independently throughout life.”
Some sports carry a much greater risk for eye injury than others. Baseball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in children 14 years and younger. Among other “high risk” sports are basketball, boxing, hockey, paintball, racquetball, fencing, softball and squash.
Protective eyewear today comes in a variety of styles and colors. Children playing sports often wear some safety gear, but forget the eyes. The NEI urges both coaches and parents to see that children wear proper protection for their eyes. Today’s safety eyewear can often be matched to team colors.
Safety eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specifically designed to provide the correct protection for a certain activity. Most protective eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate, 10 times stronger than other plastics. Many sporting goods stores carry them, and safety goggles can be worn over prescription glasses at a minimal cost.
“Children should use protective eyewear during sporting activities to avoid unnecessary eye injuries that can possibly result in permanent vision loss,” says Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD, director of the National Eye Institute.

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