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  • In Baseball, Eye Safety Often Takes a Hit

    Mar. 22, 2018

    For many kids and adults, the return of spring means it’s time to gather up bats, gloves and helmets and head for the baseball diamond. But too many people forget to include an important piece of gear: protective eyewear.

    According to the National Eye Institute, baseball is a leading cause of eye injuries among children 14 years old and younger who play sports in the U.S. In fact, eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children, accounting for an estimated 100,000 emergency room and doctor visits each year.

    “It’s a sad fact that nine out of 10 kids who have suffered an eye injury could have prevented it just by wearing proper eye protection,” says Kendra DeAngelis, MD, an oculoplastic surgeon in Memphis, Tennessee. “Unfortunately, many youth and adult sports leagues do not require players to wear protective eyewear.”

    Even Major League baseball players aren’t required to wear eye protection. Yet, reports of eye injuries in the big leagues show they aren’t immune to the devastating effects of a flying baseball or bat. In just the past two seasons alone, players from the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies have suffered serious eye injuries.

    Closeup of a boy's face, with a bruised cheek and one eye swollen shut after being hit with a baseball.
    A child with an eye injury from having a baseball hit his face

    Potential eye injuries from baseball include:

    “People often think that wearing their regular eyeglasses or sunglasses offers some protection from a baseball hit, but this is false,” says Dr. DeAngelis. “The truth is that non-protective eyewear can shatter upon impact, causing more damage to your eye.”

    Before taking the field, take the proper steps to keep your eyes safe:

    • If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, ask your eye doctor about prescription protective sports eyewear. There are certified helmets with attached safety glasses for baseball batters and base runners; fielders can get certified protective eyewear.
    • Sports safety glasses must meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) safety standards. Eyewear designed to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) industrial standards does not meet the safety standards for sports eye protection.
    • All prescription sports glasses should be made from polycarbonate material because it resists shattering and provides UV (ultraviolet light) protection. If the protective lenses have turned yellow over time, have them replaced, as the polycarbonate material may have weakened with age.
    • Sports goggles provide the best eye protection. However, they may not fit narrow faces well. In this case, the best option is certified sports glasses with 3-millimeter-thick polycarbonate lenses.
    • Any player who has vision loss in one eye should always wear eye doctor-recommended protective eyewear to protect their remaining vision.