Winter sports sign-up and eye protection

Winter sports sign-up is upon us. You may have started to notice posters at your child’s school or local netball, football and hockey clubs, urging you to register.

If your child has started school and hasn’t yet been examined by an optometrist, now is the time to make that appointment.

With 1 in 5 Australian children living with an undetected vision problem, ensuring your child has an eye examination is one of the most effective ways to help them be their best - both in the classroom and on the sporting field.

Sports eye protection: a serious concern

There is a good reason you don’t see soccer stars head the ball wearing regular glasses. They are simply not a safe option for contact and ball sports - particularly those sports with hard/dense projectiles, fingers at close contact, or those that use a bat or stick.

Regardless of your child’s vision, asking your optometrist about eye protection options for your child’s chosen sport is an important health conversation.

Perth optometrist and researcher Annette Hoskin is Optometry Australia’s representative working with Australian Standards for sports eye protection, covering both children and adults. According to Ms Hoskin, 10 to 15 per cent of admissions to hospitals for eye injuries among adults and children are sports-related. This translates to 2,500 - 3,750 injuries being caused by sport of the estimated 25,000 serious eye injuries occurring in Australia annually.

According to Sports Medicine Australia, while the incidence of sports-related eye injuries is low, their severity is usually quite high as injuries to the eye can result in permanent eye damage and loss of eyesight. Research has shown that 30% of sports-related eye injuries in children have the potential for permanent loss of eyesight.

Contact lenses for playing sport

Parents are often pleasantly surprised with the sports-related options available now for children with vision problems.

While contact lenses do not offer eye protection, they are a good option for low risk sports.

It used to be the case that contact lenses were rarely prescribed for children. Fortunately, things have changed.

These days, contact lenses are available for children as young as seven. Your optometrist will be able to ascertain what type of lens works best for your child according to their capability to look after them. Disposable contact lenses are a good option for kids.

Contact lenses have the added bonus of not interfering with the peripheral or side vision of the wearer.

Orthokeratology: A whole new ball game

It is worth discussing Orthokeratology (ortho-keratology) with your optometrist. It’s a reasonably new development in contact lenses and much research is currently being undertaken to examine its effects on slowing the progression of childhood myopia.

Orthokeratology is the fitting of specially designed contact lenses that are worn overnight. During sleep, the lenses gently reshape the front surface of the eye (cornea) so that upon removal the next morning, the wearer can see clearly. This means that Saturday morning soccer can be performed without the need for visual aids such as contact lenses or spectacles.

Sports glasses and goggles

For high risk sports, Optometrists typically recommend ultra-strong and impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses for eye protection in sports-appropriate spectacle frames or goggles that do not affect peripheral or side vision.

They have a sturdier grip and are more secure around the temple, often via the use of an elasticised band similar to wetsuit material.

Only an optometrist will be able to tell you whether sports spectacles or goggles are right for you. Find an optometrist in your area:

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