Millions of school-age children participate in a sport in the U.S. But for some, not every memory is fond, especially for those kids who suffer an injury. Eye injuries are one of the leading causes of visual impairment in children. Athletes need to choose protective eyewear to avoid devastating and life-changing injury.

Ryan is a Bettendorf High School soccer player who has played the sport for nine years. He was seen recently by Dr. Frederick for a blunt trauma injury to his left eye. During a game, Ryan was hit directly in the eye by the ball. He went to the emergency room even though he felt his vision was ok. He was experiencing floaters in his vision and had some blood in his eye. He received cream to reduce swelling and was sent home.

But this isn’t the first time Ryan’s taken a direct hit to the eye. He has been hit three times in the other eye. Perhaps Ryan’s dad felt like his luck was running out, so three days after the initial impact, Ryan made an appointment to see Dr. Frederick. Ryan was found to have blood inside his eye and bruising of his retina. Follow up examinations were required to ensure the injury resolved without further complications to the eye, and before Ryan could be cleared to return to full participation on the team.

Ryan’s learned his lesson and now wears sports goggles to protect his eyes. Athletes can now choose from various types of sturdy, lightweight and fashionable eyewear. When properly fitted by an eye care professional, glasses with polycarbonate lenses prevent ninety percent of sports eye injuries and do not hinder performance. Most sporting leagues don’t require athletes to wear eye protection, but eye injury is greatly reduced when proper eye gear is worn.

Any type of eye injury should be evaluated right away. Eye doctors have special examination techniques and equipment to assess the extent of the injury that may not be available at the family doctor or even Emergency room. Symptoms that should prompt immediate attention include loss of vision, pain in or around the eye, double vision, persistent flashes of light, floaters or shadows in the vision or numbness in the cheek or teeth on the injured side.

Ryan’s advice to fellow athletes is simple. “If you get hit and go down in a game, stay out of the game. Keep calm and maintain your perspective about the injury. And wear goggles.”

Whatever your game, whatever your age, protect your eyes with appropriate protective eyewear.

Dr. Frederick is board-certified with a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology and sees patients in our Rock Island and Bettendorf clinics.

The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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