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Eye Care Safety During Sports

April 24, 2018

Playing sports at any age is a big part of our culture. But injuries can also come from those activities. Although a sprained ankle can be hard to prevent, an eye injury is 90 percent preventable.

Each year, 100,000 people acquire a sports eye injury, and 42,000 will go to the emergency room because of that. Unfortunately, 13,500 people will go blind or have vision loss as a result of the injury.

Sports with intentional contact and no eye protection — such as boxing or MMA — are prone to eye injuries. Popular sports like baseball and basketball also score high in eye injuries from bats, balls, foreign objects and physical contact.

Baseball presents the most frequent eye injuries for kids ages five to 14, and basketball is the leading cause of sports eye injuries for those between 15 and 64.

Each year, 100,000 people have a sports eye injury, and 42,000 will go to the emergency room because of that.


Three Main Types of Eye Injuries From Sports

  • Blunt trauma occurs when something hits the eye. If an object that is bigger than the eye socket — such as a soccer ball or basketball — hits the eye, the bones surrounding the eye can be injured. Force from a smaller object can create pressure that injures the eye, causing anything from mild irritation to rupturing the eyeball.

  • Penetration injury occurs when a foreign body gets in the eye. For example, rubber pellets from field turf or dirt from the field can scratch the lining of the eye, causing a corneal abrasion.

  • Radiation injuries are common in sports such as snow skiing and water skiing, and are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun.

What to Do If You Have an Eye Injury

If you or your child gets injured in the eye, it’s important to determine if you should go to the emergency room or to your doctor right away.

Signs to get immediate medical attention include:

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Disorientation

  • Immediate swelling that shuts the eye — if this occurs, do not try to pry the eye open as this can make the injury worse

  • Loss of vision                                                                                                               

  • Vision changes, including blurred vision

  • Pain in the eye

  • Difficulty moving the eye in all directions

  • Bleeding in the eye

  • Pupils are not dilating or constricting

  • Sensitivity to ligh

The emergency room, your physician or ophthalmologist can assess the injury and look at all parts of the eye to determine if there is any damage and then recommend the appropriate treatment.

Preventing Injuries With Eye Protection

While some sports require protective eye equipment, not all do. Basketball, for example, does not usually require additional eye protection. However, a basketball player who is functionally blind in one eye may wear sports goggles for eye protection even if they are not needed for vision correction.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly recommend eyewear for all participants in sports that carry a risk of eye injury. High-risk sports include basketball, baseball, softball, hockey, lacrosse, racquetball and cricket. Low-risk sports include tennis, soccer, volleyball, golf, fishing and football.

Safety sports eyewear should meet the requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials’ (ASTM) standards for sports. Regular eyewear (prescription eyeglasses, prescription or non-prescription sunglasses) with lenses that are not made of polycarbonate material are dangerous because they can shatter during impact, sending pieces of material into the eye.

Protective eyewear may not make a fashion statement, but preventing 90 percent of sports eye injuries by consistently wearing recommended eye protection is a clear benefit.

Get a Free Guide to Prevention of Sports Injuries

While exercise and sports-related activities often have a positive impact on our lives, they can also lead to serious injury. When you are faced with a sports injury or condition, expert care is crucial to maintaining optimal health and a high quality of life. At the Orlando Health Orthopedic Institute, our multidisciplinary sports medicine team is committed to providing exceptional orthopedic care to help you return to your active, pain-free lifestyle. Download a free Guide to Prevention of Sports Injuries for information on symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more.

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