By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Surprisingly, says Rob Carmichael, football is not No. 1 when it comes to sports-related eye injuries.
"Injury surveillance stats show basketball is at the top of the list," said Carmichael, head athletic trainer at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo. "Baseball and softball are also high on the list. Racquetball is also a sport with a lot of eye injuries."
While the nature of football is arguably the most violent of the mainstream sports, it's easy to understand how basketball tops the eye-injury numbers. The nature of flailing arms and waving hands and their close proximity to faces are the perfect recipe for a finger or fist in the eye.
The best deterrent to eye-related injuries in athletics is a simple one.
"Wear the proper protective gear," Carmichael said.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology says 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented.
Goggles, or the eye shields now commonplace on many football helmets, may not be fashion perfect, but they do their job.
Eye-related injuries are the leading cause of blindness in young people, and most of those injuries occur in sports-related activities.
Carmichael, who was named the 2011 NAIA Head Athletic Trainer of the Year by the National Athletic Trainers' Association, said all medical personnel associated with athletic events have automatic checklists to help determine the severity of eye-related injuries.
Carmichael said a decision is normally made quickly whether or not the athlete in question needs assistance from a professional in the ophthalmology field when an eye injury is a concern.
"Serious eye injuries are not that common, but I have a seen a few," said Carmichael, who has been at Culver-Stockton for 19 years.
Serious eye injuries may not be commonplace, but every 13 minutes, an emergency room in the United States treats someone for a sports-related eye injury.
"Our healthy eyesight is something that we can sometimes take for granted. But, in an instant, a severe eye injury can have life-changing results," said Dale Wiseman, director of optical services at Quincy Medical Group. "By consistently wearing the right eye protection while playing sports, we can help dramatically reduce vision loss and permanent blindness in children and adults."
Adult eye injury statistics may also come as a surprise. Adult eye injuries are more likely to occur at home than they are in the workplace. Almost 125,000 eye injuries each year are traced to mishaps involving common household products, according to the Prevent Blindness America nonprofit organization.
"Many eye injuries in adults are the product of those do-it-yourself projects and weekend warriors," Wiseman said. "It is important to remember that accidents can happen in the blink of an eye."