Researchers stress that although brain injuries and concussions may be receiving a lot of focus in the media, eye injuries are also common in sports—especially among young people.

A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research study published in JAMA Ophthalmology suggests that approximately 30,000 sports-related eye injuries serious enough to lead to a visit to the emergency department occur each year in the United States, and the majority of those injuries occur to those under the age of 18.

Also according to the report, basketball and cycling were most likely to cause eye injuries, whereas 21% of baseball and softball injuries resulted in fractures of the bones around the eye, which often require surgery to repair.

“These are one-time injuries that can have lifelong impacts on the ability to gain an education, to earn a livelihood, to read or drive a car,” says the study’s leader, R. Sterling Haring, DO, MPH, a DrPH candidate in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, in a media release from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In the study, a research team led by Haring analyzed discharge data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Survey during the years 2010 to 2013. During that time, the researchers note in the release, 120,847 patients arrived at the emergency room with sports-related eye injuries, making up roughly 3% of all eye injuries. Among the patients, 60% of males and 67% of females were age 18 or younger.

Among males, the researchers found, the riskiest sports for eye injuries were basketball (26%), baseball or softball (13%) and air guns (13%). For females, the riskiest sports were baseball or softball (19%), cycling (11%) and soccer (10%). Lacerations were the most common injuries, followed by contusions.

“Thousands of cycling-related eye injuries occur each year,” Haring says in the release. “Many of these could probably be prevented by something as simple as wearing wrap-around sunglasses.”

Haring states in the release that he hopes that future research could identify ways to convince more athletes of all ages and skill levels to wear appropriate protective eyewear.

“While brain injuries such as concussions are getting a lot of attention these days, everyone from Little League coaches to weekend warriors need to understand that there are real risks to the eye when playing sports,” Haring concludes in the release. “Now that we recognize what sports may be most hazardous to the eye, we need to look for the best ways to prevent these injuries.”

[Source(s): Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Newswise]