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Study: EDs treat 19,000 children annually for sports-related eye injuries :

January 8, 2018

More than 19,000 children are treated for sports-related eye injuries in U.S. emergency departments (EDs) each year, prompting researchers to call for stricter rules on protective eyewear.

“Increased prevention efforts are needed, including child, parent, and coach education, along with adoption of rules that mandate the use of eye protective equipment to decrease sports- and recreation-related eye injuries among children,” authors wrote in the study “Pediatric Sports- and Recreation-Related Eye Injuries Treated in U.S. Emergency Departments” (Miller KM, et al, Jan. 8, 2018,

Using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, researchers studied children’s eye injuries in EDs from 1990-2012.

During that time, roughly 441,800 children were treated for sports- or recreation-related eye injuries, a rate of 26.9 per 100,000 children, which decreased slightly over the years.

Roughly 75% of the injured children were boys, and children ages 10-14 and 15-17 were injured at the highest rates, according to the study. Corneal abrasions made up 27.1% of the injuries followed by conjunctivitis (10%) and foreign body in the eye (8.5%).

Basketball was the most common activity linked with eye injuries, making up 15.9% of the incidents, followed by baseball/softball (15.2%) and non-powder guns including BB, pellet and paintball (10.6%), researchers found. Eye injuries associated with non-powder guns increased 168.8% and accounted for 48.5% of hospitalizations, according to the study.

The Academy and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommend basketball, baseball and softball players wear eye protection, but athletic governing bodies don’t require it across all age levels.

The Academy and AAO call for eye protection for paintball. Authors of the study say children using BB or pellet guns also should wear eye protection and should shoot at paper or gel targets with a backstop to prevent ricochet.

“The severity and increasing rate of eye injuries associated with non-powder guns underscore the need for special preventive efforts directed toward this source of pediatric eye injury,” they wrote.

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