When people think of injuries in sports or exercise, they usually think of injuries to the bones and joints. Unfortunately eye injuries in sports are more common than most people realize.

Sports are the leading cause of eye injuries in patients in the 10- to 14- and 15- to 24-year-old age groups. In total, about 100,000 eye injuries in sports occur each year. Approximately 42,000 people are treated in United States emergency departments for sports-related eye injuries each year.

The sports-related products and equipment that cause eye injuries include baseballs, basketballs, bicycles, fishing poles, footballs, golf balls, paintballs and tennis balls. Despite the possibility that these objects could injure their eyes, studies have shown that more than 78% of people who suffer eye injuries in sports are not wearing eyewear.

Fortunately these are preventable injuries. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 90% of serious injuries could be prevented with protective eyewear. Athletes should consider wearing protective eyewear or masks, even if the leagues don’t require them. Polycarbonate plastic is thought to be a lightweight but strong material that won’t shatter. Therefore, it makes for a good shield in goggles or a mask. Protective eyewear should be inspected regularly and replaced when it appears worn or damaged.

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While contact lenses and glasses are often worn as corrective eyewear to improve vision, they provide little or no protection against trauma. Additionally, glasses can shatter when hit with a flying object.

Finally, if you have impaired vision in one eye, wear eye protection. Whether due to a prior eye injury, surgery or just poor vision in one eye, wear goggles or other eye protection, even if your vision is corrected with contact lenses or glasses.