NEW YORK—With a second straight World Cup soccer championship in plain sight, the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) will be the center of attention for many tomorrow as they take on The Netherlands in the 2019 World Cup final. The game is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (EDT).

The U.S. advanced to the final with a 2-1 victory over England on Tuesday, while the Dutch defeated Sweden, 1-0, in extra time the following day. The Netherlands, seen as a team on the rise and playing well in this World Cup, are playing in the women’s final for the first time in the team’s history.

Alex Morgan
celebrates after
scoring the game-winning goal against England.

Nonetheless, the success of the USWNT has been the main story at this World Cup, and the team’s run of victories across France has translated into high television ratings and even into retail, where one of the best-selling items of the summer is the USWNT’s home jersey (white, with red-blue trimmed sleeves).

Nike announced earlier this week that sales of the USWNT jersey have surpassed sales all other U.S. soccer jerseys, including the men's national team. According to Nike, the women's 2019 stadium home jersey is now the No. 1-selling soccer jersey, men's or women's, ever sold on in one season. And Fanatics said the women’s jersey is the top-selling national team jersey of all time, with sales this year more than 500 percent ahead of the same period in 2015 (when the U.S women also won the World Cup).

But while the sparkling play of the U.S. stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe will draw plenty of fans’ attention – as will the legion of orange-clad Dutch fans who are certain to fill the stadium in Lyon, France – what has gone seemingly under the radar in all the excitement of the U.S. women’s team dominance of the tournament is eye safety in soccer, as well as other competitive sports. Eye safety is important for all, but especially in youth sports where it sometimes is overlooked.

Allie Long and Alex Morgan have perfected their pre-game arrival look.
The fact that eye safety – and eye injuries – draws less attention than other types of injuries has been noted in the past, even though eyes can be especially vulnerable to injuries during sports play, as The New York Times noted in a 2016 report on youth sports injuries.

“Eye injuries in sports, especially youth sports, are worryingly common and often involve activities that most of us probably would not consider risky for eyes, according to a new, nationwide study of emergency room visits related to eye problems among athletes,” The Times reported. “The results suggest that anyone involved with youth sports should be vigilant about protecting young people’s eyes, perhaps in part by stocking up on wraparound glasses.”

Eyes are vulnerable to injury because they tend to be facing directly into the action and have little natural protection against pokes or flying objects, the report noted.

Indeed, an analysis of annual data by Prevent Blindness last year indicated that there were more than 33,000 Americans treated for sports-related eye injuries in 2017. The organization cited the study, “Epidemiology of Sports-Related Eye Injuries in the United States,” which found that the proportion of injuries resulting in impaired vision was highest for those injuries associated with paintball (10.2 percent), shooting an air gun (8.2 percent), racket sports (5.8 percent) and soccer (5.7 percent), as VMAIL reported.

Prevent Blindness provided the following tips on buying sports eye protection:

    Kelley O'Hara and Megan Rapinoe
    appeared on Good Morning America recently.
  • Always consult an eyecare professional to get the best eye protection for a specific sport.
  • If you wear prescription glasses, ask your eye doctor to fit you for prescription eye protection. If you're a monocular athlete (a person with only one eye that sees well), ask your eye doctor what sports you can safely participate.
  • Do not buy eye protection without lenses. Only "lensed" protectors are recommended for sports use. Make sure the lenses either stay in place or pop outward in the event of an accident. Lenses that pop in against your eyes can be very dangerous and cause serious injury.
  • Fogging of the lenses can be a problem when you're active. Some eye protection options are available with anti-fog coating.
  • Check the packaging to see if the eye protector you select has been tested for sports use. Also check to see that the eye protector is made of polycarbonate material. Polycarbonate eye protection is the most impact resistant.
  • Sports eye protection should be padded or cushioned along the brow and bridge of the nose. Padding will prevent the eye guards from cutting your skin.
Additional information about eye protection designed for specific sports can be found on the ASTM International website, which provides details related to the American Society for Testing and Materials Standard Specification for Eye Protectors for Selected Sports.