Keep eye on safety this season

Baseballs, paintballs, golf balls, power tools, lawn mowers, slingshots, fishhooks, fireworks, firearms and elbows in the eye are all major contributors to eye injuries that are in steady supply during the outdoor fun of summer.

A recent survey of eye MDs by The American Academy of Ophthalmology shows my fellow ophthalmologists and I agree the eye injuries we have encountered could have been prevented if those patients had worn protective eyewear.

So we all need to remember the words our grandmothers and moms told us, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” most especially as we take to our yards, ball fields and playgrounds this summer. To help you have an eye trauma-free summer, here are some ideas of what to avoid doing without proper eye protection.

Yard work

If you’re mowing the lawn or using your weed whacker, debris flies around at high speed. Large leaves from weeds, a rock or dirt kicked up by either can injure your eye. Remember to wear your safety glasses when working in the yard. Wearing shatter resistant sunglasses will do double duty for you, as they not only protect you from flying debris but also from ultraviolet rays.

Safely play ball

Many sports are associated with blunt eye trauma. Elbows seem to find eye sockets in basketball games, but it helps when kids wear the protective plexiglass shields like many professional players are starting to do. Paintball is another culprit. The popularity of this game is increasing around the world. If eye protection is not being worn when a paintball hits someone’s eye with its rapid speed, it can cause significant damage from the impact – not to mention the residual damage possible from the paint in the eye.

Safe hike

We don’t normally associate simple hiking with eye injuries, but if you are hiking a mountain trail in a wooded area there is great potential for injury. As we push away branches from brush and trees to make our way, one of these could snap back and hit us in the face or eye. It’s best to wear protective glasses or sunglasses while you’re out hiking.

Bikes, motorcycles

The potential for eye injury here is significant from flying bugs. Your speed, even on a bike, combined with the speed of a bug’s flight can lead to eye damage which could have a long term effect on your vision. Just think that last bug that hit your car windshield. Now imagine if that were your eye. Riding is fun, but don’t forget your eye protection.


The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate, and that celebration is traditionally done with fireworks. By their nature, fireworks involve explosions, accelerants and projectiles, and injuries caused by them can be devastating to the eyes and the face. Among the worst are bottle rockets, which travel at high rates of speed and which can easily cause a severe contusion or a rupture of the eye. But sparklers and other hand-held items used in celebrations have also caused eye injuries. Eye injuries also have been reported from fragments of firecrackers and other explosions hitting someone in the eye. While a lot of these injuries are seen in children, many teens and adults have been injured this way. The key to prevention here is to make sure kids are supervised and that dangerous fireworks are kept away from their face and eyes. Better yet, avoid the risk all together and go to a public fireworks show instead of playing with fireworks at home.

Flying fishhooks

Fishhooks and sinkers can both cause serious trauma to the eye. Surprisingly, these injuries don’t usually happen while the line and bait are being cast through the air. The most common injuries happen when the line is snagged on something, and the fisherman pulls hard on it, releasing the hook. The hook and sinker then slingshot back at great speed toward the fisherman and anyone standing nearby, striking the face and sometimes the eye. A good pair of polarized sunglasses will help protect your eyes and help you see below the water’s surface, protecting your eyes from the sun’s glare.

Lousy swing

Golf-related injuries are some of the worst that are seen by ophthalmologists in the summer, and they often lead to extremely poor outcomes. Both the club and the ball can be sources of impact. The problem with the golf ball is that it perfectly fits the eye socket. Baseballs, which are stopped by the face’s bony prominences, are more likely to fracture the orbit, while the golf ball will easily rupture the globe of the eye.

These are but a few of the summer related causes of eye injury. Remember, it is always best to have your eye checked by an ophthalmologist if you experience any type of eye injury, even if you might think it is minor. You only have two eyes – even a “minor” injury could have a devastating long term effect on the vision of the person who suffers it.

Dr. David M. Kwiat, from Amsterdam, is a fellow of the American Board of Ophthalmology and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.