By Denis Langlois

Canadians love sports.

More than half of the population is involved in community-level sport, either as a player, spectator, volunteer, coach or official, according to a 2015 report by the True Sport Foundation and Vital Signs, a national program led by community foundations.
A whopping two-thirds of all children and youth are active in sport and roughly 7.2 million Canadians aged 15 and older participate regularly in a sport.

Canadian adults are involved with “hundreds of sports, ranging from adventure racing to badminton,” according to a 2010 Canadian Heritage research paper. The most popular is golf, followed by ice hockey, soccer, volleyball, basketball, skiing and cycling.
Among children, the most popular sport by far is soccer, with about 42 per cent of child athletes participating in the sport. Other popular sports among kids are swimming, hockey, basketball, baseball and volleyball.

Multiple eyewear products are currently on the market in Canada to not only protect the eyes from potential injury but also improve a person’s performance on the field, pitch, water or court.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists says when gearing up for a sports activity, all athletes should consider wearing protective eyewear, due to the potential risks for eye injuries, which can range from low to high depending on the sport.
Recently, Optical Prism magazine spoke with Dr. Kirsten North, the associations’ in-house OD policy consultant, about the importance of wearing protective eyewear when playing sports.

Q. What’s kind of risks to the eyes/vision health are present when playing sports (indoors or outdoors)?
A. Every time you participate in a sport, you are putting your eyes at risk of injury. The most common injuries occur when something or someone comes into contact with the eye area, causing bruising, bleeding or even broken bones around the eye. But with outdoor sports, there is also the possibility of radiation injury from ultraviolet light. Vision can also be affected by a concussion, where there is no overt injury to the eyes themselves.

Q. What do you advise athletes to do to protect their eyes while playing sports?
A. 90 per cent of eye injuries can be prevented with proper protective eyewear. The exact appliance will vary by sport. While basketball players wear protective goggles, hockey players wear a cage or shield and skiers wear masks. What is most important to remember is that regular dress glasses are actually a hazard during sports and should not be worn.

Q. What role can an optometrist play in helping people to avoid/be aware of possible eye injuries during sports?
A. Optometrists are trusted advisers to their patients. They can take the time to discuss a patient’s specific sport interests and recommend appropriate eyewear as part of the overall treatment plan. People don’t know what they don’t know!

Q. By regularly seeing an eye care professional, the Canadian Association of Optometrists says eye injuries can be detected much earlier. Why is this important?
A. Visiting an optometrist regularly is critical to maintaining good vision and those with good vision and visual skills are less likely to be injured. Also, some injuries can be undetectable by the patient until the damage is advanced or permanent. Only a routine examination can detect these issues.