Spring has sprung! The grass is greener, birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and several kids' sports are back in season. While you're helping your child pick out their new gear for the season, remember an often-overlooked piece of equipment: eye protection.
Most children's sports don't require eye protection, which is why it can be so easy to forget. However, even non-contact spring sports like baseball, softball, and lacrosse can pose a risk to your child's eyes—think of how quickly a baseball can fly! In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children who play sports should wear some sort of eye protection(opens in a new tab) to help keep them safe while playing.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you keep your child's eyes safe this season:
1. Choosing The Right Gear
There are many different types of eye protection available, so it’s important to choose the right type for your child’s sport. Typically, each spring sport will have its own kind of protective headgear, but this headgear won’t always protect the eyes. For example, if your child plays baseball or softball, they likely already wear a helmet, but it’s important to make sure that their helmet has an eye shield or attachable cage to protect their face and eyes from the impact of a stray ball.
For lacrosse, another popular spring sport, a helmet with a full-face mask is the safest option. Though lacrosse is popular with both boys and girls, girls’ lacrosse players traditionally use less protective equipment. In fact, a girls’ lacrosse team may only require their players to wear an eye mask or helmet with an eye guard. Despite this lower requirement, a helmet with a full-face mask is still the most protective, not only for the eyes but for the rest of the head, as well.
If your child wears prescription glasses, you'll want to look for a pair of sports goggles that will fit over their glasses. It’s important to know that glasses don’t provide sufficient protection on their own, and moreover, can even become very dangerous if broken. For that reason, you may also want to consider investing in a pair of prescription sports goggles, which are designed to stay in place during physical activity while ensuring that your child has the clearest vision possible.
2. Ensuring The Proper Fit
Once you’ve chosen the appropriate eye protection, it’s important to make sure that it fits properly. Eye protection that doesn't fit properly is ineffective and can actually do more harm than good. Helmets should fit snugly but not be too tight, and the cage or shield should not obstruct your child's vision. Make sure that any glasses or goggles your child wears fit snugly but comfortably. If you're unsure whether the equipment fits properly, ask your child’s coach or a representative from the league to check.
3. Encouraging Your Child To Use Their Protective Eyewear
Think back to when you rode your bike as a kid: did you always wear your helmet, or did you sometimes (if not all the time) convince yourself you didn’t need it? This is often the trickiest part of protective gear—getting a child to actually wear it! Luckily, there are many ways to encourage your child to wear their gear.
First, it’s important to talk to your child about the importance of eye safety. Without being too scary, try having a conversation with them about how their protective eye gear can keep them from getting hurt. It might also help to show them pictures of professional athletes in their sport wearing protective eyewear while playing to help it seem cooler and more exciting.
Second, let them be a part of the process! For many kids, having the opportunity to pick out their own gear can go a long way in their desire to use it. After all, would you be more excited to wear something that your parent picked out for you, or something that you got to pick out for yourself? Whether your child has fallen in love with a pair of pink goggles or a helmet with flames, allowing them some freedom in their fashion can make it more fun.
Lastly, make sure to praise your child when they wear their protective eyewear, whether that means telling them how great they look, how proud you are, or just a simple “great job!” Positive reinforcement is a great tool, and before you know it, your child could be wearing their gear without you needing to remind them!
4. Consult The Professionals
It’s recommended that all children have a comprehensive eye exam before starting any sports activities. This is because some vision problems, like amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus (crossed eyes), can put your child at a higher risk for injury during sports. An ophthalmologist can identify these conditions and provide treatment to help reduce the risk of injury.
At Everett & Hurite, our experienced ophthalmologists are here to do just that! We provide comprehensive eye exams for children of all ages, and we'll work with you to ensure that your child's vision is healthy and safe.
Happy spring! Protect your child's vision by visiting the professional ophthalmologists at Everett & Hurite. Schedule an appointment today to check in on your child’s eye health so that they can enjoy their spring sports season to the fullest!