Approximately 600,000 sports-related eye injuries are documented each year in the United States. Of these, roughly 72 percent occur in individuals younger than 25 years, and 43 percent in those younger than 15 years.

April 4-10 has been designated National Public Health Week by the American Public Health Association (APHA). This year’s theme is “Safety is NO Accident: Live Injury-Free.” In support of this important awareness week, Western University of Health Sciences encourages all individuals, and particularly children, to wear proper eye protection when participating in sports.

“Your child’s primary pair of glasses are no match for a fast-moving baseball or soccer ball,” said College of Optometry Associate Professor Robert Lee, OD. “Glasses designed for sports-specific activities go a long way in protecting your child’s vision.”

Wearing regular corrective glasses or sunglasses might be dangerous while playing sports, Dr. Lee said. A ball to the face could drive the hinge of a regular pair of glasses into a person’s eye, he said.

Sports glasses are designed with breakaway hinges and a wraparound frame to prevent such an injury and provide added protection. They also feature reinforced padding and polycarbonate, impact-resistant lenses.

UV protection is also important, especially for children, said Deanne Kirby, Director of Optical Services for the Eye Care Center at Western University of Health Sciences, 795 E. Second St., Pomona. Children under age 18 should have polycarbonate lenses in all of their eyewear, both sports and everyday frames, she said.

The Eye Care Team at the WesternU Eye Care Center can provide more information about this and other topics. Everyone should receive a yearly eye exam, children as well as adults, Kirby said.

APHA is calling for public health measures to positively impact this growing safety concern. Among those efforts detailed in the APHA’s policy statement – “Promoting the Use of Protective Eyewear for Children in Sports” – are recommendations to enact state legislation across the country that would require eye protection for children playing sports; to encourage health educators and facilitators of sports programs to teach the value of high-quality fitted sports protective eyewear; to conduct studies on the cost-effectiveness of sports protective eyewear; and the employment of risk management strategies by insurance companies promoting the use of protective eyewear.

“Upwards of 90 percent of sports eye injuries can be prevented through the proper use of protective eyewear,” said Renée Mika, OD, Chair of the Vision Care Section at APHA. “Injuries can range from temporary to permanent vision loss. This is indeed a public health concern that must be addressed.”

Call the Eye Care Center at 909-706-3899 to make an appointment or visit http://www.westernupcc.com/index.html for more information about the WesternU Patient Care Center.