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Keep Eyes Safely on the Ball.

American Academy of Ophthalmology Reminds Parents and the Public of the Importance of Protective Eyewear for Youth Sports and Back-to-School Leagues

SAN FRANCISCO -- Noah was seven years old when an errant paintball smashed into his left eye and sent him from the sidelines of his brothers' game to the emergency room.

"I remember being very dizzy and I couldn't stop vomiting," said Noah. "I had to wait in the hospital for my eye pressure to go down and for all the blood to drain out of my eye."

Noah later developed a cataract and a detached retina in his left eye; he subsequently underwent successful surgery to repair the traumatic cataract and retinal detachment. In spite of the fact that his traumatic cataract has been removed and his retina has been repaired, he now wears a contact lens and has some permanent double vision.

"Unfortunately this is a common story when you mix sports and the lack of proper eye protection" said Abdhish R. Bhavsar, MD, Noah's doctor and a clinical correspondent for the Academy. "While Noah was a bystander in this instance, 40,000 people suffer from eye injuries related to sports every year."

According to Noah's mom, "Hand and eye coordination is now very difficult for Noah," and though he loves baseball and tennis he has decided to take up swimming instead. Still, she says, "Noah never lets his spirits down."

Maura knows all too well how quickly an eye injury like Noah's can happen. Thirteen years ago at hockey practice in Connecticut, she sustained a serious hit to her eye from a teammate's hockey stick. The accident left her with years of pain and permanent double vision in her left eye.

"She had the largest break in her eyeball that I had ever seen," said Joel S. Schuman, MD, Maura's doctor and clinical correspondent for the Academy. "She required multiple surgeries and we were happy and fortunate that we were able to save her eye."

After ten surgeries Maura still struggles with her vision, but feels confident about her efforts to change the way people view eye protection and sports. Living in Washington, DC, she now does policy work, a natural outgrowth of the advocacy campaign she undertook after her injury to encourage local schools to mandate protective eyewear for school sports. Within three years after she started the effort, most of the local schools required protective eyewear for their field hockey teams.

"Instead of being taken down by this very serious injury, Maura turned it into a drive to prevent it happening to others," said Dr. Schuman.

September is Children's Eye Safety Awareness Month, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds student athletes and school sports programs to get EyeSmart and use appropriate, sport-specific protective eyewear properly fitted by an eye care professional. Most youth sporting leagues don't require protective eyewear, so parents should take special care to ensure their children's eye safety. "This is an important way for parents to spare their children unnecessary injury and pain," says Dr. Schuman.

"I recommend safety goggles for all sporting activities, even when it comes to children playing in their own homes," said Dr. Bhavsar. "We even put on safety goggles when we play catch with a baseball in our own backyard."

Learn more about eye injuries, eye diseases, and the names of Eye M.D.s in your area by visiting www.GetEyeSmart.org.

NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: High-resolution images and interviews with American Academy of Ophthalmology clinical correspondents and patients available upon request.

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

AAO is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons--Eye M.D.s--with more than 27,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" - opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org.

About EyeSmart[TM]

The EyeSmart Campaign is an initiative of the Academy, with its partner EyeCare America, to raise the public's awareness of eye diseases, injuries and infections. For more information about the campaign and eye care information, visit www.geteyesmart.org.
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Date:Aug 25, 2008
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