Every year, some 33,000 young athletes injure their eyes participating in sports. But nine in ten of those mishaps could be prevented, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Sports-related injuries are the leading cause of eye injuries in kids, followed by bicycle spills and injuries involving BB guns and air rifles. Baseball is responsible for more eye injuries among children aged 5 to 14 than any other sport—typically as a result of a batter being struck by the ball—while inadvertent elbow jabs and stabbing fingers account for the majority of eye injuries in basketball, which holds the same dubious distinction among fifteen- to twenty-year-olds.

The AAP recommends that your sports-minded youngsters wear protective lenses made of polycarbonate, a rugged material that is 20 times stronger than conventional eyewear.

However, eye accidents can still happen, so when they do, cuts and lacerations to the eye should be left untouched. Do not attempt to put medicine in the eye or flush it with water, and remind youth not to rub their eyes. Gently place a bandage or gauze pad over the eye and head to the pediatric emergency department or your ophthalmologist right away in order to make sure no permanent damage is done.

Other sport injuries that sometimes send children to the Emergency Room are sprains, muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, repetitive motion injuries, and heat-related illnesses.

Children’s Hospital of Georgia and Safe Kids Greater Augusta recommend these additional precautions for all children involved in sports:

  • Before signing up, get a general physical exam.
  • Always wear appropriate protective gear for the activity – for practice as well as games – and make sure it’s the right size and properly adjusted.
  • Always do your warm-ups and cool-downs. If it’s important before and after a game, it’s important before and after practice too.
  • Make sure responsible adults know and enforce the safety rules of the sport, are present to provide supervision, and are trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Never “play through” an injury. Get immediate help from a coach or trainer and be sure to mention everything that hurts or aches. All coaches should have a plan for dealing with emergencies.
  • If you’re playing outside, wear SPF 15 or higher sunscreen and reapply every hour.
  • Follow the rules. In most sports, the rules are based not only on sportsmanship, but safety.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte sports drinks before and during the activity, and rest frequently during hot weather. A child can lose up to a quart of sweat during two hours of exercise, and kids get overheated more quickly than adults and cannot cool down as easily.

You can find more information on how to help your family avoid tragedies associated with this issue on the American Academy of Pediatrics website and at SafeKids.org.

Safe Kids Greater Augusta, led by Children’s Hospital of Georgia, works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children ages 1 to 14. Safe Kids Greater Augusta is a member of the Safe Kids Worldwide network. To find out more about local Safe Kids programs, call 706-721-7606, or visit grhealth.org/safekids.

This article appears in the August 2016 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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