Despite an overall decline in the rate of eye injuries associated with sports and recreational activities, injuries associated with the use of airsoft and paintball guns have increased by 168% among children, leading researchers to warn parents and caregivers about the importance of making sure children to wear eye protection at all times when engaging in the activity.
In a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics on January 8, researchers note that there has been a significant increase in eye injuries from air guns used by children under the age of 18 over the last 23 years.
The team of researchers led by Krystin N Miller, MD of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, performed a study to investigate the epidemiologic characteristics of sports and recreational-related eye injuries among children in the United States ages 17 and under. They used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to find youths treated at US emergency department for sports and recreational-related eye injuries from 1990 to 2012.
During that timeframe, an estimated 441,800 children were treated at emergency rooms for sports and recreational-related eye injuries, averaging about 27 injuries per 100,000 children. The demographic most prone to eye injuries were boys between the ages of 10 and 17 years of age, accounting for three fourths of all emergency room visits and overnight stays.
The most common types of eye injuries involved corneal abrasion (27.1%), conjunctivitis (10%), and foreign body in the eye (8.5%). The most common sports and recreation activities and equipment that resulted in eye injuries were basketball (15.9%), baseball and softball (15.2%), and nonpowder guns (10.6%).
According to the study, the overall rate of eye injuries stemming from sports and recreation decreased slightly over the period of the study, however the rate of eye injuries associated with nonpowder guns increased by 168%.
Not only did nonpowder gun eye injuries increase, but they also accounted for 48.5% of all sports and recreational activities that resulted in hospitalizations for moderate to severe eye injuries.
“Increased prevention efforts are needed, especially for eye injuries associated with nonpowder guns,” the researchers concluded. “Increased child, parent, and coach education, as well as adoption of rules that mandate the use of eye protective equipment should be undertaken.