Basketball legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy donned them, as did pro football superstar Eric Dickerson, and onetime Reds third-baseman Chris Sabo. Goggles may make athletes look goofy, but new research suggests that young players and their parents and coaches might want to give these and other protective eye-wear a second look.
That’s because caregivers in emergency rooms across the country treat 30,000 sports-related eye injuries annually, a large majority of them in patients younger than 18 and a few younger than 10.
The most common patients needing treatment were boys who had been playing (in order of injury) basketball, baseball or softball, or with air guns, the New York Times reports. Cycling also caused many eye traumas, and for girls, soccer was the leading source of eye mishaps.
Many of the injuries were minor and weren’t just associated with the eye—bicyclists, for example, arrived in ERs with face scrapes that went up and around the eyes. Some injuries were serious, where the surrounding socket was bruised or broken or the eye itself was injured by objects, including balls and projectiles from paint- or air-guns. Patients also received care when they were poked in or had their eyes butted, as happens in sports like soccer.
Researchers said they found relatively few ER cases involving football or other sports like lacrosse or hockey where athletes wear helmets, face masks or visors.
They also said their estimates of eye injuries was likely low. They did not count cases where kids went to their own physicians, eye specialists or urgent care. Their study looked at a sampling from a national database that compiles information about cases handled in 900 ERs nationwide. They scrutinized cases from 2010-13 by examining medical codes that described in detail why patients visited ERs, including what sports they had participated in when injured.
Experts interviewed by the New York Times said that youngsters may be reluctant to wear goggles or other eye protection for sports or recreation.
But these could become a next safety step as American teens race from activity to activity and sports commands so central a role in their lives. I’m too familiar in my practice with the injuries and real harms that youngsters suffer in sports, especially when adults unfairly push them and fail to provide needed protections. Concussions and head injuries have become a huge health bane, and schools and leagues have only started to take the steps needed to safeguard young athletes from lasting damages from what are supposed to be fun recreations. A little prevention can go a long way, so grownups need to be head’s up in saying “eye-aye” to kids’ vision safety, too.