Play Hard, Keep Safe: Sports Eye Safety
The fall brings on so many warm feelings. We start seeing the beautiful autumn colors and finding pumpkin spice flavored and scented items everywhere—or maybe in your opinion the pumpkin spice thing has gone too far, which I can totally agree that pumpkin spice flavored dog treats are probably not necessary! In any case, fall also means it's time for football! Oh, and your kids may be resuming their fall-season sports (fall is not only about Husker football!). September is Sports Eye Safety Month and we want to give you some information on common eye injuries sustained while playing sports as well as some ways to protect your eyes during athletic activities.
Probably the most common sports related eye injury is a corneal abrasion. A corneal abrasion occurs when the front layer of the eye is scratched, often by a fingernail. The cornea has a lot of nerves running through it, but no blood vessels, which is why an abrasion will be very painful but won't bleed. Abrasions range from mild to severe. A mild abrasion may require no treatment at all because the first several layers of the cornea regenerate and heal very quickly. A more severe abrasion may require treatments such as antibiotics or anti-fungal drops, and/or a bandage contact lens, depending on the cause and severity of the abrasion. An eye doctor such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist can easily diagnose and treat a corneal abrasion. Abrasions, with proper treatment, often heal in a few days without complication.
Traumatic iritis/angle closure:
Traumatic iritis is inflammation of the iris, which is the colored part of the eye. If the muscles of the iris, called the ciliary body, get inflamed, it is painful when the pupil (the black hole in the center of the iris) dilates and constricts. The iris can also essentially swell, which causes the space between the iris and cornea (called the angle) to close and not allow the aqueous fluid to move from the back of the eye into the drainage channels. This buildup of pressure can cause angle-closure glaucoma and damages the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting the information/light received in the retina to the brain for processing. Traumatic iritis often occurs after a hard blow to the head or the eye itself. The symptoms of traumatic iritis include hazy or foggy vision, a dull ache/bruised feeling of the eye, as well as significant light sensitivity. Traumatic iritis is most often treated with steroid eye drops as well as dilating drops to keep the pupil from expanding and contracting, which causes pain. If you experience angle-closure glaucoma, you will also likely need some glaucoma drops to bring the pressure of you eye or eyes down to a normal and safe level. Your eye doctor can diagnose and treat traumatic iritis and angle-closure glaucoma.
While less common, a hyphema is when you have blood in the front part of the eye. It sits between the iris and the cornea. If you have a hyphema, it is important to have it checked out by an eye doctor to check for further damage of the eye. Hyphemas often take a few weeks to completely resolve and you may need to avoid taking medications such as aspirin to reduce the likelihood of a re-bleed.
Retinal tear or detachment:
A blow to the head or eye can also cause a tear or detachment of the retina. Retinal tears and detachments can be sight-threatening and are typically treated as an emergency. If the retina pulls away from the choroid of the eye, we often use laser or gas bubbles to put it back down. Common symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment are flashes of light, a sudden increase in floaters (little grey spots moving around your vision), or a black curtain or veil in your vision. If you notice any of these, please contact your eye doctor right away. Your eye doctor will want to dilate your pupils to look for the tear and/or detachment and will help determine if you need to have an emergency surgery to repair it, or if it can wait for a few days to address. The surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist and the type of surgery needed depends on the severity and location of the tear/detachment. Thankfully, retinal tears and detachments aren't super common, but they need to be address quickly if you have any symptoms of one.
A blow-out fracture is probably the least common sports related eye injury, but can be pretty severe if it occurs. A blow-out fracture, also called an orbital floor fracture, occurs when the bones around the eye take hit that is hard enough to fracture the bones that make up the eye socket. The fracture can catch one of the muscles that helps to move the eye, causing double vision. This is called extraocular muscle entrapment or impingement. If this goes unresolved permanent damage to the eye can occur. It is important to be evaluated immediately if you sustain a blow to the head and cannot move your eye or eyes in all directions equally. Should you not be able to move your eyes in all directions or have double vision after a hit to the head, this warrants a trip to the emergency room.
While not directly and eye injury, concussions are relatively common in contact sports. Concussions can cause long-standing visual issues such as reduced ability to switch and maintain focus, light sensitivity, and many other things. If you have a concussion, please discuss any symptoms you may be having with your eye doctor, as they may be able to make some recommendations on lens treatments that may be able to help. These include anti-fatigue lenses as well as blue light blocking lenses. More information continues to be available as studies come out and provide more insight.
What you can do:
If you are participating in sports, especially contact sports, make sure you're wearing glasses that are ANSI approved. The frames are made of certain materials to make them more impact resistant, and often have foam-type cushions to reduce any blows to the eye or area around the eyes. The lenses are also polycarbonate, which is impact and shatter resistant, and must be of a certain thickness to be considered safe. Sports eyewear should also be 100% UV protective.
What we offer:
For sports safety, we carry Youth Force glasses made by Wiley X, as well as frames for recreational wear and motorcycle riding, also made by Wiley X. These glasses are all designed for sports use and meet all ANSI standards related to sports. Conveniently, they will also include your child's prescription, so that he or she can see clearly which can help their sports performance as well!
For more information on statistics of sports injuries by sport, click here.