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​Blinded by the light

​​​Injury prevention is not just about ankles, knees and shoulders. With athletes heading outdoors for spring sports, keep in mind that eyes need protection too and not just from stray balls and bats.

In addition to taking extra safety measures to avoid injury from a ball, bat or other opponent, be alert for a lesser-known cause of eye damage that can affect all outdoor athletes and coaches. It is ultraviolet (UV) light.

When repeatedly unprotected, your eyes risk damage from over exposure to UV light. Eye damage and disorders such as cataracts, macular degeneration, corneal sunburn (photokeratitis) and ptergyium, a fleshy growth invading the corner of the eye, are associated with overexposure to UV light. It is highest in winter and spring. Reflections off surfaces such as grass and sand from the playing field can increase the exposure effects by 17 percent. Additionally, certain medications can increase the affect of UV light exposure and the risk of eye damage.

Protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays and sports injuries is simple. Impact resistant sunglasses will protect from light exposure and can help defend your eye from objects that may strike it. Sunglasses should block at least 99 percent of all UV rays and 90 percent of infrared rays. For added safety, wraparound versions can protect from all sides, and those with plastic lens are shown to hold up better in impact situations.​

​​​Share comments or questions on this information email: sports.medicine@marshfieldclinic.org​.


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