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Eye on the Ball: Spring is Time for Young People to Protect Eyes from Sports Injuries

Famous Oregon Baseball Player Joins the Campaign to Encourage Kids to Play Safely

PORTLAND, Ore. – Former Chicago White Sox baseball player Pete Ward is joining the Oregon Foundation for Vision Awareness (OFVA) to encourage kids to protect their eyes while playing baseball and other spring sports this year. Sports and other recreational activities cause more than 40,000 eye injuries annually in the United States.

“Baseball is such a great sport. Unfortunately, the fun of the game can be spoiled for young people if they sustain an eye injury,” said Pete Ward. “I want to encourage kids, their coaches and parents to make sure our budding athletes protect their vision so they can continue playing for a long time.”

Baseball is the sport most frequently associated with eye injuries among five to 14 year-old athletes, yet statistics show that 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries are preventable.

By wearing protective eyewear, a young person can avoid or reduce the impact of serious injury. Without protective gear, a fast-moving baseball can injure the bones around the eye or even the eyeball itself, causing temporary or permanent vision problems; other players’ hands or gloves can scratch the eye, causing damage to the eye’s surface; and a misguided bat can cause head injuries leading to vision problems.

“The emotional costs of an eye injury are immeasurable, but the financial costs of repairing an injured eye can easily exceed $10,000 in medical bills,” said David Wheeler, MD, Pediatric Ophthalmologist from OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute and OFVA board member. “Wearing protective eyewear can cost as little as $50 and make all the difference in preventing sports-related injuries.”

Protective eyewear like sports goggles can be either prescription or non-prescription. Sports goggles should be made of non-breakable materials. Helmets or headgear can also play an important role in protecting eyesight and preventing head injuries.

If an eye injury occurs while playing a spring sport, young people should be seen by their eye doctor or primary care provider as soon as the injury occurs. If not properly treated, vision problems can persist and lead to lifelong difficulty playing sports, driving or even maintaining certain jobs.

Eye doctors also recommend young people participating in sports have an eye exam if there are any indications of vision problems. Nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism can lead to a variety of physical injuries during sports, including eye injuries.

Parents and coaches should watch for the following warning signs on the field, which may indicate poor depth-perception or other vision problems:

For parents who cannot afford to take their child in for an eye exam, assistance is available through the OFVA, a non-profit organization that helps disadvantaged children receive essential eye care. The OFVA can be reached at (800) 922-2045 or at www.ofva.org.

“I hope all young players will make sure they can see well before they run onto the field, and that all parents and coaches protect their kids’ eyesight while they’re in the game,” added Ward.

About the OFVA
The Oregon Foundation for Vision Awareness (OFVA) is a non-profit, charitable organization whose mission and goal is to provide educational, scientific and charitable services related to eye care to various segments of the general population, particularly children and underprivileged individuals.
The OFVA serves as a clearinghouse for financial assistance programs, charitable contributions and grant programs for low income and indigent Oregonians. For more information, please call 800.922.2045 or visit the OFVA Web site at www.ofva.org.

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