According to Canadian Ophthalmological Society statistics, three sports are the worst offenders for causing eye injuries.
This sport is most likely to injure Canadians, with a total 1,914 hockey-related injuries occurring over 30 years. Over 300 caused a complete loss of vision. Only nine people who lost their sight completely were wearing eye protection. In cases where protection was worn, it had not been properly fitted to the player.
This activity is next on the list, with Canadians suffering a total of 1,135 injuries. In 47 of these incidents, players completely lost their vision. Statistically, more eye injuries are reported from badminton than from all other racquet sports combined.
Canadians reported a total of 513 eye injuries from baseball, with 32 resulting in a complete loss of vision.
Historically in Canada, hockey has been the sport most likely to harm the eyes. Sticks cause two-thirds of injuries, with the other third coming from pucks. In the 1970s, making full-face shields mandatory in minor hockey was a major step forward. Other standards of protection for playing hockey have also increased. Both visors and helmets must be approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Thanks to this mandated and regulated change, the number of hockey eye injuries has been considerably reduced. While at one time several hundred players hurt their eyes each year, now only four to six of these injuries occur annually.
Unfortunately, safety standards for other sports have not evolved as much as hockey. Racquet sports continue to be the second most common cause of eye injury and vision loss in Canada. The size and shape of a badminton bird or squash ball are roughly the same as an eye socket. These balls or birds often travel at very high speed.
CSA-certified eye protection is available for playing racquet sports and various other activities like baseball and paintball. Since participants can still choose whether or not to wear protection, eye injury remains a serious problem. Regulations and standards work, but not all levels of sport are covered by regulations. So, protecting your eyes during sport activities really is up to you.
Wear appropriate sports goggles during racquet sports, including squash, racquetball or badminton. Goggles should be made of an impact-resistant polycarbonate plastic, ten times stronger than other materials. The ASTM F803 lens meets the internationally recognized American Society of Testing and Materials standard.
Never rely on prescription glasses or contact lenses to provide protection. The impact of a ball or racquet can drive the frame into your face, and glass can shatter and cut your eye.
Hockey – Never play recreational hockey without eye protection. Use a CSA-standard, full-face wire or polycarbonate protector.
Golf – Never turn around when you hear someone shout ‘fore.’ Face forward and stay alert for balls ricocheting off of trees.
Baseball – Wear a faceguard attached to your helmet when hitting or running the bases. Catchers need a full-face protector.
Basketball – Sports goggles protect your eyes from flying fingers and elbows.
Football – Wear a polycarbonate eye shield attached to a wire facemask mounted on the helmet.
Lacrosse, fencing, and war games like paintball – Full-face protection is a must during these activities.
Hockey helmets must be in good condition, fit properly, and have a good chin strap. These helmets show the date when they were made, for good reason. A helmet that is more than five years old should not be bought or sold, as the material breaks down over time. Various helmets are available for other activities like biking and winter sports like skiing.
Remember the following guidelines:
Whether you are on the ski slopes, the court, the rink, or the field, protect your eyes. Look for CSA-approved equipment and use it. Talk to coaches, teachers, friends and family about the need for eye protection. Be sight smart!