A pediatric ophthalmologist offers advice to parents on eye safety and sports

Q: My child is having trouble seeing and making contact with the ball this season. I noticed she is squinting to see the pitcher, and I think she may need glasses. What should I do to help her hit a home run on the field and at the ophthalmologist?

A: Vision problems can be discouraging for many athletes because they cannot see to perform at their best. One out of every four children has a vision problem, and an ophthalmologist may prescribe corrective lenses to help.

Eyeglasses provide vision correction, but some offer protection as well. The most common type of eye injury in sports is blunt trauma, where a person is struck by something or someone. Every year, more than 45,000 sports-related and recreational eye injuries are treated in U.S. emergency departments. Parents should consider eyeglasses with shatterproof, impact-resistant lenses and sports goggles to help protect their child's eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend players wear goggles with polycarbonate lenses during soccer, swimming and many court sports.

Some children prefer contacts, which allow for unobstructed peripheral vision and fewer eyewear distractions. However, contact lenses should be reserved for older, responsible adolescents because improper wear can cause serious infection. In addition, contacts don't protect eyes from injury and may even increase the damage should an impact occur. Athletes are encouraged to wear protective goggles or facemasks when wearing contact lenses.

With all treatment options, always consult an eye-care provider. A child's eyes change as they grow, so parents should schedule yearly eye exams once their child starts wearing glasses.

Always consult your child's pediatrician concerning your child's health.

For more pediatric health news parents can use, visit our blog: 700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org.

Cate Jordan, M.D., is a pediatric ophthalmologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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TIP OF THE MONTH 

Eye Protection 

Outdoor sporting events can mean lengthy stretches of time in the sun. Protect your child by knowing:

Exposure to sun can cause vision problems later. The sun can cause sunburned corneas, cancer of the eyelid, cataracts and macular degeneration, among other problems. Children are more susceptible because the lenses in their eyes don't block as much UV exposure as adults' lenses. Purchase sunglasses that block both kinds of UV rays. Make sure sunglasses fit properly and are comfortable. Resources are available. The Ohio Ophthalmological Society's “Play Hard. Don't Blink.” sports eye safety program works with schools, youth leagues and organizations throughout the state to provide protective eyewear to reduce injuries. For more information, go to playhardgear.com.