Sports and Eye Safety

Thousands of eye injuries occur annually related to sports activities among youth and adults.

Sports and Eye Safety: Tips for Parents and Teachers

Eye injuries are a leading cause of blindness in children in the United States — and most of these injuries happen while kids are playing sports. The good news is that wearing the right protective eyewear can prevent 9 out of 10 sports-related eye injuries.

What is protective eyewear?

Protective eyewear is eyewear made of ultra-strong polycarbonate, a type of plastic that’s very impact resistant and also protects eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Types of protective eyewear for sports include safety goggles, face guards, and special eyewear designed for specific sports.

Regular eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contacts don’t protect kids from eye injuries — but most protective eyewear can be made to match kids’ glasses or contacts prescriptions. Kids can also wear safety goggles over their regular glasses or contacts.

When do kids need to use protective eyewear?

Kids need to use protective eyewear whenever they are practicing or playing a sport that raises their risk of eye injury. Some sports have a higher risk for eye injuries than others.

Sports with a high risk of eye injury include:

Baseball and softball
Mountain biking
Racquetball and squash

Sports with a moderate risk of eye injury include:

Tackle football

And sports with a low risk of eye injury include:

Road biking
Track and field

Youth sports leagues don’t always require players to use protective eyewear. That’s why it’s important for parents, teachers, and coaches to know the risks and make sure that all young athletes use protective eyewear when they’re at risk for eye injuries.

What kind of protective eyewear do kids need?

There are different types of protective eyewear that are best for different sports.

Kids need safety goggles with polycarbonate lenses when playing sports like:

Baseball and softball (when fielding)
Mountain biking
Racquetball and squash

Kids need helmets with attached polycarbonate face guards or face masks when playing sports like:

Baseball and softball (when batting)
Tackle football

Kids need swim safety goggles with polycarbonate lenses when playing sports that happen in water, like:

Water polo
Water skiing or tubing

Kids may need other types of eye and face protection for sports like fencing, lacrosse, and paintball, and when playing certain positions, like goalie. If you’re not sure what type of protective eyewear your child needs, ask your child’s eye doctor or coach.

Find more resources
Learn more about sports eye safety from Prevent Blindness
Help kids learn about sports eye safety from NEI for Kids
Last updated: July 1, 2019

Courtesy: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)

The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the Federal government’s lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness.

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