April is a busy month in the US. It’s National Financial Literacy Month, African American Women’s Fitness Month, Alcohol Awareness Month, Jewish-American Heritage Month, National Autism Awareness Month, and for the purposes of this post, it’s also Sports Eye Safety Month. Really. And for good reason.
Every year more than 40,000 Americans injure their eyes while playing a sport or doing some kind of recreational activity. A third of those are school-aged children. The good news is that according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests almost all of these injuries could have been prevented if the person involved had been wearing the right eye protection.
As one who’s had more than my fair share of eye injuries–mostly from martial arts: fingers, elbows, even an occasional close call with a knife or gun–I’m completely on board with this.
The Academy recommends that anyone engaging in sports–especially kids–should get eye protection tha’ts sport-appropriate. “Lenses made from polycarbonate materials provide the highest level of protection; they can withstand the impact of a ball or other projectile traveling at 90 miles per hour. Proper eye protection is widely available for a variety of sports including hockey, football, lacrosse, and water polo, as well as racquetball, soccer and downhill skiing.”
Always choose eye protection that has been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards (the materials testing equivalent of the UL–Underwriters Laboratories–who certify all things electrical).
Oh, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking that goggles or other protective gear are for wusses. If you’re old enough to remember Kareem Abdul Jabar, you probably remember when he started wearing goggles after a nasty smack in the face. A lot of people made fun of him (of course, none of them did it to his face), but after a while, other players started wearing goggles too. And remember when people laughed at athletes who wore mouth guards? Now it’s had to find any pro athlete in a sport that has a chance of contact who doesn’t have one hanging out of his mouth between plays.