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Be a good sport -- watch out for your eyes

September 6, 2019
Dr. Kate Wagner - Guest Opinion , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Southwest Florida is an ideal place to play, with weather that encourages outdoor sports all year long.

While baseball and softball are associated with spring and summer in northern climates, leagues play ball in Florida year-round. Same with swimming and other watersports. Tennis, anyone? Gone fishing? Playing 18 holes?

Just like UV protection, it's important for those active in Southwest Florida to protect their eyes during activity to avoid the risk of serious injury. Sports or activities with balls, rackets or flying objects pose a potential for eye injury. Golf injuries to the face have been identified as the most devastating eye injuries of any sport.

More than 25,000 people seek treatment for sports-related eye injuries each year, most of them preventable. Without the use of proper eyewear, several eye injuries commonly occur, including a scratched cornea, blunt eye trauma, penetration, chemical burns and swelling.

A former Elmquist employee was playing racquetball for recreation when she was hit in her left eye, which immediately became swollen and bruised. Her eye was painful, tearing and sensitivity to light.

We saw her immediately after she called, diagnosing her with traumatic iritis, which is inflammation inside of the eye that causes light sensitivity and pain. While this condition can be treated, it will forever increase her risk of getting glaucoma in that eye. She was very lucky that she did not have a detached retina or permanent vision loss. Her injury could have been avoided by wearing the proper protective eyewear.

In addition, a severe blow to the head, whether it's sports-related or caused in another way, can result in visual problems affecting 20 different visual skills, so an eye examination is recommended following a head injury. Not taking time to recover from a concussion can also result in long-term damage to vision, thinking, coordination and other key functions.

Both professional and recreational athletes should consider three things - safety, comfort and sun exposure - when selecting the proper eyewear for a sport or activity.

Safety goggles or glasses with polycarbonate lenses should be worn for racquet sports, basketball and golf because regular glasses don't provide enough protection and can make injury worse if they shatter.

For baseball, use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields. Use helmets and face shields approved by the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association when playing hockey. Polycarbonate lenses and shields are thinner and lighter than plastic, are shatter-proof and provide 100% UV protection. Look for protective eyewear labeled ASTM F803 approved, as it is performance tested to give the highest levels of protection.

Protective eyewear can even help improve sports performance! Many goggles or safety glasses come with tints to reduce sun glare or have light-filtering capabilities that make it easier to see certain colors such as yellow tennis balls.

For fishermen, eye injuries make up over 9% of fishing-related injuries seen by doctors, mostly from hooks, sinkers and lures. Wrap-around polarized sunglasses protect the eyes, decrease eye fatigue and UV exposure with the bonus of increasing the ability to see fish in the water.

In the pool or in natural waterbodies, the easiest way to protect your eyes is keeping the water out with water-tight goggles. Microorganisms thrive even in treated water and can cause infections.

Eye injuries from water sports can include eye infections and irritations, and scratches or trauma from other swimmers. Wearing contact lenses during water activities increases the risk for a severe, painful infection of the cornea, which usually causes scarring and, if undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss.

Safety equipment is made for protecting your body, and eyewear is no exception. Take a proactive approach to your eye health and speak to your ophthalmologist to determine which eyewear products are best for you. Your eyes will thank you!

If you have concerns about your vision or have experienced an eye injury, it is important to speak to a doctor to discuss treatment options. With more than 25 years serving the Southwest Florida community Elmquist Eye Group's caring doctors Dr. E. Trevor Elmquist, Dr. Kate Wagner, Dr. Sarah Eccles-Brown and Dr. Nina Burt are available to answer your questions. Same-day appoints are available for emergency eye care needs, and Drs. Wagner and Eccles-Brown have extensive experience treating eye injuries from their time serving in the military. Elmquist Eye Group encourages proper eye protection by offering a variety of eye care options for exercise, including prescription and non-prescription eyewear, sunglasses in durable sports frames and designer optical lines like Costa and Oakley at its Optical Boutique locations in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. For more information, visit, call 239-936-2020 or stop by an Optical Boutique.

Dr. Kate Wagner is a board certified optometrist and partner at Elmquist Eye Group.



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