Active children have the advantage of being in good physical shape and keeping their weight in check. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say one in five children are considered overweight or obese, but being engaged in a sport or other activity promotes exercise, which can be a good thing for both physical and mental health.
Although playing sports is beneficial for various reasons, there are some inherent risks to participating in them as well. Physical injuries, such as concussions and broken bones, can result from participating in sports. But perhaps surprisingly, eye injuries are quite common among young athletes. Such injuries often do not get the attention with regard to prevention that statistics suggest they warrant.
According to the National Eye Institute, eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in America. Many eye injuries among school-aged children are attributed to sports. A study published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology that was based on research from Johns Hopkins University, Harvard and other institutions found about 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated each year at emergency rooms participating in the Nationwide Emergency Department sample, which compiles information about millions of emergency room visits to more than 900 hospitals around the country. Data indicates that a large majority of these injuries occurred in people younger than 18, and a sizable number in children younger than 10. The situation is similar in Canada.
"We believe that sports eye injuries are the largest cause of vision loss in children," said Keith Gordon, vice-president of research at CNIB, a Toronto-based nonprofit that provides support services for the visually impaired.
The NEI states that baseball is the sport responsible for the greatest number of eye injuries in children age 14 and younger. Basketball has the highest number of eye injuries for players between the ages of 15 and 24. Other sports that account for a high rate of eye injuries include softball, soccer and cycling.
Players, parents and coaches must realize that, according to the Coalition to Prevent Sports Eye Injuries, 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided with the use of protective eyewear. Protective eyewear is often made of strong polycarbonate, which is 10 times more impact-resistant than other plastics. All children who play sports should wear protective eyewear, warn sports medicine experts. However, currently many youth sports leagues do not require the use of such protection, making it the responsibility of parents and coaches to enforce this important safety protocol.