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Scott M

Fishing is hard on the eyes

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Scott M

Fishing surpasses basketball as No. 1 for eye injuries

Eye injuries from fishing -- a treble hook lodged in the eye or a sinker hitting the eye -- have surpassed eye injuries from basketball as the No. 1 sports-related eye injury.

By Mike Bolton, Newhouse News Service

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Tuskegee University student Ralph Squire had forked out five bucks for the fishing lure that very morning. When the crankbait became entangled in a bush while he fished later that day, he wanted it back.

That decision will haunt him forever.

"I had just bought the lure ... and right off the bat I threw it up in a bush," he remembers of the incident last May. "I kept pulling on it with the fishing line, trying to pull it loose from the bush."

The lure eventually came loose and struck Squire in the face. When several friends rushed to his side, they made a gruesome discovery: A treble hook from the lure was buried deep in Squire's right eyeball.

Squire became one of a growing number of anglers who have suffered catastrophic eye injuries from fishing lures, according to Drs. Robert Morris and Douglas Witherspoon of the Callahan Eye Foundation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The two surgeons can offer no reason for the increase in eye injuries from fishing, but they have the data to prove it.

Since 1982, emergency rooms and clinics across the nation have reported all eye injuries to a U.S. Eye Injury Registry at the Birmingham-based Helen Keller Foundation. Two years ago, eye injuries from fishing surpassed eye injuries from basketball as the No. 1 sports-related eye injury, the doctors say.

"Basketball has always produced the most eye injuries because of elbows and fingers," Morris said. "Racquet sports like racquetball and squash were next. Fishing injuries to the eye have now surpassed them all."

The two doctors are urging the fishing industry to get the word out about the dangers. The Helen Keller Foundation is working with Bass Pro Shops to create ads warning fishermen not to pull on lures that get hung up in debris.

For Squire, any such warning comes too late.

"The worst part was that I was wearing sunglasses and I tilted them up so I could see better," he said. "I gave the lure a big pull and it came loose and like a bullet it hit me in the face.

"It knocked me down, but I only felt the pain of the lure hitting me. When I stood up I could hear the lure rattling in front of my face and I knew it was bad. My friends came over and saw what I had done and they freaked out."

Squire's friends rushed him to a nearby hospital where he was sedated. He then was airlifted to Birmingham.

The injury was gruesome, but nothing the two surgeons at the UAB Callahan Eye Foundation hadn't seen before. The surgeons carefully cut off the barbs of the treble hook and removed it. Three surgeries later, Squire can see light, colors and movement through the eye.

"It's about like looking through an empty Gatorade bottle," Squire said almost a year after the injury. "I can see people's faces and hands when they are close, but everything far away is just a blur."

Squire eventually will have surgery to replace the lens in the eye. That should allow the eye to work well, Morris said.

Squire had the lure bronzed and it now sits on his dresser as a reminder of his mistake.

"My answer to anyone wanting to know how to get a lure loose is to just cut the line and leave it," he said. "There's no lure worth what I've gone through."

Data from the Helen Keller Foundation show that nationwide, fishing injuries now make up about 9 percent of all sports eye injuries, Witherspoon said. A hook to the eye makes up about 38 percent of those injuries, while 44 percent come from a sinker or the body of a lure striking an eye.

"People tend to think that a weight or sinker in the eye isn't as bad as a hook in the eye, but it can be just as bad," Morris said. "In a lot of cases the eyeball ruptures. In about half those cases the person is left permanently blind in that eye."

Morris said wearing fishing glasses and ball caps that can grab a lure before it reaches the face would substantially decrease such injuries.

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Deitz Dittrich

I always, always, always wear sunglasses while fishing. ALWAYS!! Even if its raining! I have had to chuck sunglassess after the sinker scratched them so bad. Better to replace the glasses than my eye!

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I agree....How many times has a guy set the hook, miss, and have the lure come zinging back at mach 1 right for the face?? I have ducked many a lure. Even fish throw them at you sometimes...

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Yikes! I wear sunglasses frequently, but not all the time. I suppose it won't be long before OSHA gets involved with this. tongue.gif (J/K) However, there are some very cool looking OSHA approved protective sunglasses out there if anyone feels strongly about it. Fortunately I haven't seen or been involved in an eye fishing accident.

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Some very freightening statistics! I too have ducked many a lures, but really don't fish without a hat and sunglasses. We were up in canada a few years back and one of the guys in the boat got snagged with his 5 of diamonds. So he pulled hard and it came zinging back and hit my dad square in the brim of his hat and sent his hat flying. The only thing that happened was a wet head, and a little humiliation. Be safe out there guys. Sunglasses are a given, but hats can be a safety piece of equipment as well.


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Scott K

I have some groosom pictures of a fish hook in someones eye. I would post the pics, but dont know if I should, and I really dont know how.

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I have discovered over the years that I am glad that I HAVE to wear glasses to see...they have saved me many times. Fortunately on this issue I have no choice but to wear the glasses, unlike seatbelts or lifejackets, which I wish I was better about strapping on.

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