August means summer’s almost over. It means preparing for back to school. And for athletes, especially those in high school, it means most fall sports are already underway with conditioning and even some games and meets. The busyness of school starts well before the first day, that’s for certain.

With all the practices and shopping and even doctors’ appointments for immunization and sports physicals, eye safety is easy to neglect and even forget about completely. But it deserves special attention since eye injuries occur all too often in children and teenage athletes. In “Eyewear That Protects Your Child’s Eyes,” Gretchyn Bailey provides the following statistic to drive this point home:

“According to Prevent Blindness America, approximately 40,000 sports-related eye injuries each year in the United States are severe enough to require emergency room care “” that’s one every 13 minutes!”

How to keep your child’s eyes safe“ says that of those 40,000, about 55% happen to individuals under age 25. While not advocating your kids wear safety eyewear during every waking minute, we do recommend it during most sports and many recreational activities. Consider the following facts provided by Play Hard Gear to better help understand why:

  • Eye injuries are often the result of a high-speed ball, aggressive body contact or a moving piece of sports equipment.
  • Young players often lack the reflexes, coordination, strength or experience to avoid these eye hazards.
  • When properly fitted, appropriate eye protection, such as eye goggles and batting helmets with face masks, can reduce the risk of sports-related eye injuries by at least 90%.

Visual Impairment and Use of Eye-Care Services and Protective Eyewear Among Children “” United States, 2002 explains the importance of eye safety for children and teens this way:

“Nearly all eye injuries can be prevented with proper selection and use of protective eyewear. A strategy aimed at teaching children from an early age to use protective eyewear, including sunglasses, might have a life-long impact on their ocular health. In 2002, approximately 50% of children were involved in sports and other activities that can cause eye injury, and less that 15% of them used protective eyewear always or most of the time.”

A focus on eye safety for children and teens involves a very simple approach. And there’s no time like back-to-school time “” a time of new beginnings and fresh starts “” to begin emphasizing the importance of eye safety.

Set a Good Example

Most parents realize at some point that their kids often fail to do what they say, but they often do what they see their parents doing (or often, not doing). This principle certainly holds true for eye safety. Kids are much more likely to wear protective eyewear if they see their parents doing so both during sports as well as during other activities where eye damage happens regularly, such as when doing yard work.

Let Kids Choose Eyewear

As kids get older, they like to be independent by making more and more of their own choices. Letting your kids choose their own eyewear is one area where this truth can play out in a positive way. With proper guidance, kids can choose the eyewear that is not only most appropriate for their activities but that they’ll actually wear regularly too. Fortunately, more and more safety eyewear manufacturers are providing options that are not only specific to the sport but that kids will also find appealing (i.e. “cool”).

Educate Yourself

After setting a good example, the best way parents can ensure proper eye health and safety for their kids is to learn about what’s available and what’s best when it comes to safety eyewear. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of good information. Sources like “Recommended Sports Eye Protectors“ gives details regarding eyewear for sports with a higher incidence of eye injuries, and the article “UV Protection “” Eliminating the Excuses“ provides information on how to best protect eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. In addition, your optician can help with choosing the best eyewear as well as with proper fit, and parents can participate in this process by learning about fitting sports eyewear to your child’s face. In addition, parents should make sure they can positively answer the question “Eye Emergencies: Do you know what to do?“.

A Lifetime of Eye Health & Safety

Promoting eye health and safety in children doesn’t just help prevent injuries during sports and other activities. It also sets kids up for a lifetime of good eye health. Through setting a solid example, making choosing eyewear a family activity and educating themselves on the basics of good eye health and safety, parents can feel good about the long-term impact they are having on their children’s vision.