Our sense of vision represents arguably the most important way that we discover and experience the world around us. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the potential damage that can result from sustaining an injury to the eye itself or a blow to the head in the course of participating in their favorite sports. A blow to the eye from sporting equipment, fingers or balls can lead to injuries ranging from lid haemorrhages or lacerations, corneal abrasions, retinal detachments and hyphaema (bleeding inside the eye) to permanent loss of eyesight. A blow to the head, resulting in a concussion can lead to blurry or double vision, as well as a difficulty with eye-teaming and proper dilation. Failure to recognize the symptoms of concussion and act accordingly can lead to severe long-term repercussions, including blindness and death. It is extremely important, in the case of both an injury sustained to the eye itself, and an injury sustained by a blow to the head, that the signs be recognized, and that the proper course of action is taken to prevent adverse consequences. Below, both types of injuries are discussed.
Injuries to the Eye Itself
While the incidence of sports related eye injuries is low overall, their severity is usually quite high as injuries to the eye can result in permanent eye damage and loss of eyesight. Dr. Timothy P. Kenkel, of Cincinatti, Ohio points out, “Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, most injuries occurring in school-aged children are sports-related, and 30% of sports related eye injuries in children have the potential for permanent loss of eyesight. You don’t need to look much further to see the risks posed by sports related eye injuries, and why it is so important to protect against them.”
Fortunately, according to many experts, as much as ninety percent of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided if those participating wear protective eyewear, including safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards that are designed for use in a particular sport.
It should be noted that ordinary prescription glasses and sunglasses do not protect against eye injuries. Protective sports eyewear is made specifically with impact resistance and eye protection in mind. In fact, protective sports eyewear is up to 10 times more impact resistant than regular glasses! For those who do wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, most protective eyewear can be made to match their prescriptions.
Side effects of a serious eye injury may include bleeding, bruising or tenderness, as well as blurry or double vision. In case of these symptoms, or any other indication of serious eye injury, a trained eye care professional should be consulted before returning to play, to prevent further damage.
Concussions and Other Injuries to the Head
Dr. Kenkel sees many patients, particularly during spring and summer, with head trauma from playing soccer, volleyball and similar sports. These kinds of injuries can be extremely serious, and should be addressed as such. Unfortunately, concussions are often missed, because the normal test, often performed, hastily, on the sidelines of a game, can miss tell-tale signs of brain trauma, and a player suffering a concussion may be allowed to re-enter play prematurely. It is extremely important to emphasize that if concussion or other brain trauma is suspected, a trained eye care professional should be consulted before the player is allowed to re-enter the game.
As mentioned above, vision-related symptoms of concussion include blurry or double vision, trouble with the eyes working together properly, and an inability for one or both pupils to dilate. If any of these symptoms present themselves, consult your eye doctor immediately. If brain injury is severe enough, it may require a significant amount of time to heal, as well as visual rehabilitation through Vision Therapy and other means.
As always, prevention is always best. Proper sport-specific headgear is recommended, if allowed, and recognizing when to pull a player after a particularly jarring play can go a long way toward keeping vision and brain healthy!
For more information about vision-related sports injuries, contact Dr. Kenkel today