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Eyeing up the dangers of sports

If your keep-fit regime includes sports, take care to avoid eye injuries

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There's no doubt that sport is good for you, but there's also little doubt that there are risks involved. It seems that an increase in popularity of some sports is resulting in an increase in eye injuries, with games such as squash and basketball featuring on the high-risk list. It's been estimated that around a quarter of eye injuries are due to sport – mostly caused by impact from a ball, racquet or stick – and that with proper precautions up to 90% of these accidents could be prevented.



The highest-risk sports for eye injuries include basketball, squash, baseball, hockey, and martial arts. Ophthalmologists recommend the use of mesh-visored helmets or protective eyewear in these sports. In basketball, there is a 50% chance of sustaining an eye injury during an 8-year career, making it one of the riskiest sports. Soccer also poses a significant risk, with a 50% chance of eye injury during a player's career.

Basketball is the leading cause of eye injuries in the age group of 15 to 24 in the USA, resulting in about 50 serious eye injuries in the NBA each year. Squash, known for its high-speed play with balls reaching speeds of up to 230 km per hour, is considered the most dangerous racquet sport for eye injuries. Approximately 10% of eye injuries in sports involving high-speed small balls can cause permanent damage.

Beginners are more prone to eye injuries, accounting for over half of the incidents, while top-level players only make up around 13%. Ophthalmologists suggest that modifying rules and improving equipment could significantly reduce the number of eye injuries. A Canadian study found that, before implementing current protection measures, 70% of ice-hockey players had suffered severe eye injuries.

Apart from direct impact injuries, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation during sports like skiing and outdoor water sports can also pose a risk to the eyes. Symptoms of UV-related eye injuries include pain, light sensitivity, redness, and itching. Ophthalmologists recommend the use of appropriate glasses or goggles and regular eye tests to mitigate these risks.

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