Is playing sport safe for children with myopia?

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Can My Son with -6.00 Myopia (Nearsightedness) Play Sports?

As I am writing this, I am seated across from a kid with super thick glasses; our flight got delayed and we all had to disembark the plane to wait for another aircraft to come. All I can hear are the complaints of the passengers, however, I can’t help but overhear the conversation of the kid and his parents. They were saying that he can be a basketball player someday. Filipinos by the way are basketball fanatics. As doctors, we have been talking about retinal detachment as a risk for patients with myopia. In fact, the risk of retinal detachment increases from 4x for a -1.00 D nearsighted patient to upto 10x for a patient with higher than -3.00D nearsightedness. What is the retina? This is the inner portion of the eye that act as a film of the camera. Images to be clear had to be focused on it. The average eyeball length is considered to be 24mm, and for high myopes, the eyeball is expected to be longer. This means that for those who are highly myopic, their retina is stretched like a rubber band. With the retina being stretched, it is more susceptible to thinning, breaks and tears.

Playing sports are great and beneficial to the general well-being of any individual. They develop a child’s competitiveness and sportsmanship, both of which are vital characteristics to succeed in life; therefore, we should not stop kids from being active in sports. However, we do try to be more cautious when it comes to contact sports such as kick boxing, wrestling, basketball, football, soccer and the likes. The ability of a highly myopic retina to withstand trauma maybe limited. So, whether they are wearing contact lenses, glasses or under the ortho-k program, protective goggles can be worn for the said above sports to safeguard their eyes.

What is retinal detachment? It is when the retina is separated from the back of the wall of the eye. Classic sign of retinal detachment is curtain vision. A child may say he can only see the top half or lower half portion of mom’s face; or he may say he can only see the left side portion of the school bus. These are emergency conditions that warrant a trip to the emergency room or to the retinal specialist to prevent permanent vision loss. Urgent care is needed when your child noticed increase in numbers of some black or white spots floating around his field of vision, as well as frequent episodes of flashes of lights. In general, it is recommended to have a thorough retinal examination yearly for myopic patients.

So, can myopia affect the choices of sports a child can take while growing up? Probably. Better to choose sports that has lesser possibility of direct hit on the eye, an alternative though is to wear protective eyewear suitable for the sports chosen. Some sports that are probably safer for high myopes are bowling, archery, swimming, track and field, skating, chess, dance sports, equestrian and cycling. There are probably a lot more sports options out there that are less vigorous that I have not written here, so parents, don’t be discouraged.

Kids nowadays are more active than the previous generations, thus parents are encouraged to think about considering myopia control earlier to allow their child to explore without much restrictions. Ask your optometrist about what they can do to control your child’s myopia. The earlier intervention is given, the better the chances for control.

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