With Labor Day in the rear view mirror, the back-to-school season is upon us, which means kids’ after school sports activities are in full swing. Prevent Blindness, the nation’s leading volunteer nonprofit eye health organization, has declared September as Sports Eye Safety Month to help educate the public on the importance of wearing the proper eye protection while playing sports. Annual data from Prevent Blindness shows that there were more than 26,000 sports-related eye injuries treated in the U.S. last year. The new data also showed that the category of “non-powder guns, darts, arrows and slingshots” had the overall highest rate of eye injuries for the previous year.

For children ages 0-12, “pools and water sports” had the highest rate of injuries. These types of injuries may include eye infections, irritations, scratches or trauma.

Prevent Blindness strongly recommends that athletes of any age wear protective eyewear when participating in sports. Prescription glasses, sunglasses and even occupational safety glasses do not provide adequate eye protection.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, (AAO) spectators at sporting events should also be careful. Balls, bats, and players can end up in the stands at any time. Spectators should keep their eyes on the game and watch out for foul balls and other flying objects.

The AAO also advises that for those who already have reduced vision in one eye, check with your ophthalmologist to see what appropriate eye protection is available and whether they advise participating in any high impact or other high-risk sports.

“Wearing the proper eye protection while playing sports is essential to protecting healthy vision today and in the future,” said Jeff Todd, president and CEO at Prevent Blindness. “An eyecare professional can help to make sure you are using the correct eye protection for your sport and your individual needs.”

For more information on sports eye injury prevention, visit Prevent Blindness at PreventBlindness.org/sports-eye-safety. For a list of guidelines to help find the best eye protection for sports, click here.

Empire Eye and Laser Center is putting the focus on encouraging athletes to take the necessary measures to keep their eyes out of harm’s way. Image via empireeyeandlasercenter on Instagram

Los Alamos Family Eyecare in Los Alamos, New Mexico, provides safety and computer eyeglasses for the right eye protection. Image via lafamilyeyecare on Instagram

Optical Gallery in Sinajana, Guam, points out that 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries are entirely preventable. Image via opticalgalleryguam on Instagram

Prevent Blindness Texas urges sports enthusiasts not to “strike out” with an eye injury. Image via preventblindnesstexas on Instagram

Right Vision Optometry in Los Angeles shared that more than 40,000 sports related eye injuries occur every year. Image via rightvisionoptometry on Instagram

Salt Spring Eyecare in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, shared that the first catcher's mask was used in 1877 and baseball is one of the most dangerous sports for eye injuries. Image via saltspringeyecare on Instagram

Vision for Life OD, in Babylon, N.Y., urges parents to get their children the best eyewear for whatever sport they choose. Image via visionforlifeod on Instagram

X-Cel Specialty Contacts reminds patients that non-powder guns, darts, arrows and slingshots cause thousands of eye injuries every year. Image via xcelspecialtycontacts on Instagram