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  • Basketball a Major Cause of Sports Eye Injuries

    Published Mar. 31, 2015

    Many sports fans will be anxiously tuned in to the Final Four or NBA playoffs to cheer on their favorite basketball team or player. However, what people may remember about this hoops season is not the dunks or defense, but the startling number of eye injuries that sidelined college and professional players. In the NBA, Dallas Mavericks point guard Rajon Rondo sustained an orbital fracture while Cleveland Cavalier power forward Kevin Love suffered a corneal abrasion. A flurry of eye poking incidents also occurred in college basketball this season.

    In fact, basketball is one of the most high-risk sports for eye injuries, with an estimated 6,000 basketball eye injuries happening each year. When taking into account all sports, an estimated 100,000 people hurt their eyes on the court or field, and 13,500 end in permanent vision loss. Ophthalmologists – the medical doctors who treat eye injuries – say that 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear.

    "Whether you're a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, to protect your eyes while playing sports is to protect your future," said Philip R. Rizzuto, M.D., ophthalmologist and secretary of communications for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "The recent spate of basketball incidents reminds us that an injury to the eye cannot just take you out of the game, but could also lead to life-long consequences. Wearing eye protection is a smart move for any athlete."

    In support of Sports Eye Safety Month this April, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds athletes everywhere that the great majority of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided by simply wearing the proper protection. Below are tips that can help keep every athlete safe from eye injury:

    • Athletes should wear sports eye protection that meets requirements set by the appropriate certification or standards organization.
    • Children should be particularly diligent about wearing eye protection since one-third of sports related eye injuries happen in this age group.
    • Eye protection should be replaced when damaged or yellowed with age, as they may have become weakened and are no longer protective.
    • For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. For baseball, ice hockey and men's lacrosse, wear a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield – even if the league does not officially require it.
    • Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear, as contacts offer no protection and glasses are not sufficient protection since lenses may shatter when hit by a projectile.
    • To preserve the vision they have left, all functionally one-eyed athletes should wear appropriate eye protection for all sports. They should also wear sport goggles that conform to the requirements of ASTM F803 in addition to a facemask or helmet with eye protector/shield, which are required for sports such as football and lacrosse. They should not, however, participate in boxing or full-contact martial arts because of the high risk of blinding eye injuries.