Shield Your Eyes: Sports Eye Injuries You Can Avoid

playing sportsEye injuries account for about 100,000 physician visits per year at the cost of over $175 million. In fact, even low-intensity sports, such as softball and badminton, can cause serious injuries to the eyes.

The most common and preventable sports-related eye injuries include, but are not limited to:

1. Corneal Abrasion

Scraping the outer layer of the eye can occur when miniscule debris suddenly and forcefully enters an athlete’s eyeball. Sports that often cause athletes to “dive” into the ground, including baseball and American football, are the common culprits of sports-related corneal abrasion. With basketball games, it is also common for players to suffer a corneal abrasion from an opponent’s fingernail during close impact.

2. Blunt Eye Trauma

An unexpected, forceful impact to the eye or brow area is one of the most common causes of sports-related eye injuries. Miscalculating the speed of a flying object or colliding with an opponent can cause excruciating pain and damage to the eyes. Minor blunt trauma may only cause bleeding in the eyelids, otherwise known as a black eye. However, more powerful collisions may result in a ruptured eyeball, a detached retina, or even an orbital blowout fracture (when one or more of the bones around the eyeball breaks).

3. Penetrating Eye Injuries

An object that directly hits the eye can cause permanent vision loss, depending on the extent of penetration. Tiny falling debris, broken glass, or coming into contact with sports gears and equipment increases an athlete’s chances of penetrating eye injury.

4. Chemical Burn

Chemical powders used to mark the lines on a sports field can be easily kicked and moved. Thus, it can enter an athlete’s eye and inflict damage. Mild chemicals may only cause burning, redness, itchiness, and excessive tearing until the eye is washed with water or a sterile saline solution. However, stronger chemicals like acids and alkali can result in permanent blindness.

5. Sunlight-Induced Eye Injury

Extensive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be extremely harmful to one’s vision. Athletes who take part in water or snow sports, such as surfing or snowboarding, are exposed to glaring sunlight that reflects off the water or snow. Prolonged exposure to UV light increases the risk of vision loss or damage.

How to Prevent Sports Eye Injuries

90% of sports-related eye injuries are preventable by using protective eyewear, including safety goggles, shields, and eye guards designed for a specific sport. Regular prescription glasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses provide no protection against eye injuries. In fact, wearing safety goggles over them highly suggested.

Players need to take the necessary steps to protect their eyes from flying objects and other players’ body parts. If a sports-eye injury occurs, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to prevent further damage. The appropriate medical treatment can improve one’s chances of preserving vision in the affected eye. It is also important to understand that not all serious eye injuries present physical signs or symptoms. Therefore, only a thorough dilated eye exam by a professional eye doctor can diagnose serious injury.


To get in-touch with physicians specializing in medical and surgical retinal care, contact Arizona Retinal Specialists by dialing 623-474-3937 (EYES).

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