Study: Handball eyewear scrutinized, found lacking

Study: Handball eyewear scrutinized, found lacking

Common protective eyewear worn in the sport of handball fell short in impact tests and might do more harm than good in some cases, according to a new study that consulted AOA optometric experts.

"As eye care providers, we should be leading the charge on eye protection."

Authored by a student athlete and handball team coach at Pacific University, the study tested the efficacy of four popular eye guards—two lensed and two lensless products—in preventing direct globe contact or averting overall eye injury.

Using testing equipment at the school's College of Optometry, investigators simulated impacts to the eyewear at a variety of realistic velocities and with several regulation handballs. All four products failed to prevent either direct or indirect contact with the ball or safety lens.

Investigators noted this was particularly concerning considering the two lensed products passed the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F803 standard in 1998. And in the case of the lensless eye guards, investigators noted additional factors that could increase eye injury. Primarily, should a ball strike the lensless frame off-center of the eye socket, the ball would rotate "in a whip-like fashion, adding angular momentum to impact." This rotation increased the area of impact on the eye.

"Because of the discovery of the funnel effect, lensless models actually increase the risk of eye injury," the study states.

Precipitating change
Handball has a relatively low occurrence of eye injuries, but such injuries that do occur can be "catastrophic," the study says. The U.S. Handball Association mandates eye protection is required for all sanctioned events, and recommends eyewear that meets ASTM standards.

Although the ASTM F803-14 standard addresses protective eyewear in sports, generally, handball is lumped into the same category as squash or badminton, says Fraser Horn, O.D., Ph.D., AOA Sports Vision Section chair and study consultant alongside Karl Citek, O.D., Ph.D., AOA Commission on Ophthalmic Standards (CmOS) chair. The study notes momentum from a standard regulation handball is more than two and a half times greater than that of a standard 24-gram squash ball.

"They found that F803 isn't adequate for handball, and the sport really needs its own separate standard," Dr. Horn says. Investigators have used the data to approach ASTM about modifying F803 for handball, as well as notifying the product manufacturers of the results.

"Ultimately, we want to protect our athletes' eyes," Dr. Horn says. "As eye care providers, we should be leading the charge on eye protection—whether it's handball or any other sport—it's our duty, legally and ethically, to inform our patients about their risk, and recommend eye protection."

The study has been posted to the U.S. Handball Association website for public review.

Click here to read more about how CmOS optometrists make a difference worldwide on page 44 of the May 2015 edition of AOA Focus (member login required).

May 12, 2015

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