Sports safety: how to avoid sports-related injuries – News
Experts share safety tips to protect your eyes, mouth and body from sports-related injuries this season.
Written by Tehreem Khan
Media contact: Anna Jones
In 2021, 3.2 million people were treated in emergency rooms for sports and recreational equipment injuries. While exercise is great fun, getting a sports injury is not.
Experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham offer safety tips for protecting your eyes, mouth and body from sports-related injuries this season.
Nearly 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated in emergency departments each year in the United States. While the eyes are a delicate part of the body and are at risk of injury when playing sports, Katherine Weise, OD, a professor at the UAB School of Optometry, says there are steps one can take to help with eye protection.
- Let yourself be examined. A comprehensive eye exam can help doctors diagnose vision problems and recommend treatment options to maximize vision and depth perception so athletes can see more clearly and play better and safer. According to Weise, eye exams could help minimize the risk of concussion by identifying and treating vision problems that can cause bumps, hits, or bumps on the head.
- Wear goggles and a face shield. Weise recommends looking for goggles and face shields with sturdy polycarbonate frames and lenses. Polycarbonate can withstand a high level of force or impact without breaking and can protect the athlete from fingers and balls flying toward the eyes.
- Let the natural tears wash away the stain. If an athlete has a splinter in their eye, Weise says, it’s best to try and let the natural tears wash out the splinter. If not, commercial eyewash should be used.
Eye injuries can sometimes be more serious than they appear. If an athlete has any of the following symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately.
- Flashes of light, many floaters or restricted side view
- double vision
- blurred vision
- eye pain
- sensitivity to light
- Red eye
The eyes often play a role in sports-related head injuries. The Vestibular and Oculomotor Research Clinic, or VORC, is located within UAB Eye Care and conducts research to identify markers of mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion, in athletes. Visual disturbances associated with concussion and vestibular symptoms typically include headaches, dizziness and balance problems, eyestrain, and intermittent double or blurred vision. The VORC has state-of-the-art equipment to objectively and comprehensively test vestibular, oculomotor, and balance function after a concussion.
Dentists estimate that between 13 and 39 percent of tooth injuries occur during sports. Although there is a risk of injuries that can lead to tooth damage, Stephen Mitchell, DMD, a professor at the UAB School of Dentistry, says these injuries can often be prevented by following a few simple tips.
- Wear a face mask. Mouthguard is one of the most important safety equipment to protect teeth. Mouthguards can help athletes avoid chipped or chipped teeth, nerve damage, and tooth loss. The American Dental Association recommends wearing a properly fitted mouthguard to reduce the incidence and severity of mouth injuries during sports or recreational activities, particularly activities with a significant risk of dental or facial injury. This can sometimes require a custom mouthguard made by the dentist.
- If necessary, wear a face mask. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends athletes like baseball and softball players wear a face mask, not just a mouthguard. According to Mitchell, this is especially recommended for players under the age of 13 whose hand and eye coordination may not be developed enough to react to a ball coming towards their face.
- Talk to a dentist. A dentist can help an athlete determine the best safety precautions for their sport.
Mitchell says it’s important to be prepared for injuries during the sporting season. For example, to prepare for a displaced tooth, he recommends purchasing an American Dental Association-approved tooth preservation kit, available through online retailers.
“In that case, if a permanent tooth is knocked out, it can be placed in the liquid immediately, improving the chances of a successful reimplantation of the tooth,” Mitchell said.
For fractures, Mitchell recommends seeing the dentist immediately.
“If a tooth is fractured and the ‘pulp’ of the tooth is visible, meaning there is blood in the center of the tooth, this needs to be treated right away,” Mitchell said. “Go to your dentist immediately or take your child to the emergency room.”
Make an appointment with UAB Dentistry today by clicking here.
General Health Safety
When it comes to common sports injuries, Ian McKeag, MD, a sports medicine physician and an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, says they vary by sport and age.
“Concussions, overuse injuries, and heat-related injuries and illnesses are all major concerns that we have for our athletes,” McKeag said. “Unfortunately, most of the causes of these injuries stem from the fundamental nature of sport, competition and training overall.”
McKeag says concussions are common and have been a hot topic of discussion in recent years, particularly in contact sports.
Overuse injuries can be caused by the repetitive forces placed on the body during exercise. In children, overuse can cause inflammation of the growth plate of the bone, similar to a stress fracture in adults. Children who play the same sport year-round can be prone to many injuries, particularly overuse injuries.
Heat-related injuries and illnesses can occur in hot and humid conditions. McKeag says many athletes aren’t used to training in the heat, especially with extra athletic gear. Heat injuries are an even bigger problem for younger children because their bodies may not be able to regulate heat as well as older athletes.
Fortunately, there are some steps people can take to prevent these injuries from occurring.
- Find out about sports injuries. McKeag says that by educating parents about the types of sports injuries related to the sports their child plays, parents can take proactive steps to prevent them.
- Do it right. A person’s biomechanics often play a crucial role in their risk of injury. McKeag says that by learning and practicing proper technique and ensuring proper biomechanics, overuse injuries can be prevented.
- Get the right footwear. McKeag has found that many young athletes sacrifice function for style. Finding a shoe that fits your feet in size and shape is important.
After a sports-related injury, McKeag recommends seeing a doctor if an athlete experiences any of the following symptoms.
- Joints feel “unstable” with or without a stereotypical injury event
- Pain or pain over a bone or joint that gets worse rather than better over time
- Recurrent joint swelling
“Even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, it’s important to know that you don’t have to be incapacitated to see a doctor,” McKeag said. “Our team at UAB Sports and Exercise Medicine is here for you whenever you need them. To be honest we’d rather see you before the injury than after. We are trained to identify biomechanical issues and muscle imbalances in athletes of all ages, and we work with each of our patients to develop the best treatment plan for them.”
Make an appointment with a sports medicine specialist by visiting uabmedicine.org/sports-medicine.