Protective Eyewear for Children Ė Safety Goggles and Glasses
Games and sports are an essential part of growing up. These pastimes provide wonderful opportunities for exercise, camaraderie and developing a team spirit. However there is a great responsibility for making sure that sports and games do not lead to preventable injuries, especially of the eyes.
There are a reported 42,000 sports-related eye injuries every year in the US which are severe enough to be treated in an emergency room. Unfortunately more than one third of the patients are not professionals taking a known risk, but children supposedly having fun. Sports are the #1 cause of eye injuries in all children under the age of 16. Less traumatic injuries may include abrasions of the cornea and bruised eyelids. More serious injury to the eye, one of the most fragile parts of our body, can include internal eye damage, retinal detachment or internal bleeding, and these problems can lead to permanent loss of sight.
High risk sports and hobbies
Eye protection is available for almost all high-risk sports and hobbies, such as baseball, hockey, football, archery, paintball and skiing. Proper eyewear is essential for all of these activities (and many more). In baseball many batters risk being hit in the eye with the ball although pitchers and outfielders can also be hit. In basketball, the danger comes from being poked in the eye with fingers or elbows. None of these scenarios is pleasant. For this reason athletes should always wear the appropriate eyewear for their sport and it should be good standard practice, not just in major matches. The only sports which do not have adequate eye protection are boxing and full-contact martial arts.
Baseball, hockey and lacrosse players should wear a clear polycarbonate face mask or a wire shield for protection from the ball. Basketball and soccer players should wear wrap-around polycarbonate lenses or side shields. For players who require vision correction, protective eyeware can be purchased with prescription lenses, so clear sight is easily obtainable. Protective eyewear in skiing and other outdoor sports will protect from the sunís ultraviolet rays which are reflected off the bright snow and can cause sunburn of the eyes called photokeratitis. Harmful UV rays have also been linked to cataracts and macular degeneration in later life.
Protective eyewear available
Today most high-risk sports have various types of eye protection available specific to the sport. They are lightweight, sturdy and they look and feel more comfortable than in the past. Eyewear is reasonably priced, making the risk of losing your eyesight not worth considering by comparison. Wearing well-fitting eye protection will not hinder performance and can prevent most sports eye injuries. In amateur hockey in Canada, eye injuries decreased by 90% when full-face protectors were made mandatory, so many players are walking around today with full sight rather than a debilitating eye injury. You only need to look to the professionals such as NBA All-Star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the NFLís Eric Dickerson to see that they have excelled at their sports whilst setting a good example of wearing eye protection.
Protective eyewear today is usually made of polycarbonate, which is 20 times stronger than normal eyewear lenses, and was originally developed by the aerospace industry for use in astronaut visors. This material is more shatter-resistant than standard plastic, making it the best choice for safety in sports eyewear. Polycarbonate is also used for bulletproof windows, airplane windows and police riot shields, so it is a proven tough, shatterproof material which is lightweight and ideal for use in sports eyewear. Another good, though relatively new, material for protective eyewear is Trivex. Like polycarbonate, Trivex is shatter-resistant and offers UV protection, but it is lighter and can often provide superior vision.
In contrast, contact lenses offer no protection at all from a ball hitting the eye at 90mph and normal glasses are inadequate. Regular eyeglasses can even do more harm than good; shattering glass or plastic lenses can damage the eyes. It's also foolish to risk damaging expensive glasses frames in sports, as replacements will be more expensive than the protective eyewear would have been.
Standard sports protective eyewear is available from all sports specialist shops and on the internet. For those who need a prescription lens, any eye center will be able to perform a full eye examination and order your protective eyewear for you. Although it is a little more expensive, you cannot put a value on your sight, which is at risk if you do not wear protective eyewear.
The parentís role in safety
Many sports leagues don't insist on eye protection, so it is up to parents to understand the risks and take the necessary precautions. It will be a lesson for life and they should set a good example by wearing safety equipment themselves when they play sports and by wearing wrap-around goggles when using power equipment around the home. You can also encourage your children by allowing them to choose the color or style of their eyewear. Just make sure that you supervise, so you can make sure that what they choose offers adequate protection.
Parents can get involved in sports at the local level and help pass ordinances requiring children under the age of 16 to wear batting helmets with protective face shields when playing baseball. They can also mandate the use of softer baseballs, which are available and would cause fewer head injuries. Similar requirements could be applied to other sports as well. The key is to take active, preventive steps to ensure that we protect that most valuable sense Ė the sight of ourselves and our children.
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