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With summer in full swing, many of us are spending time outdoors playing sports on the field, in the water, or on the courts, but few people are aware of the dangers of eye-related sports injuries. Our latest blog breaks down which sports to exercise caution while playing and how to protect your eyes.

Did you know that 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries are completely preventable? Ophthalmologists frequently treat eye injuries that result from athletics across all age groups, from children all the way up to professional adult players. These statistics shed light on just how common eye injuries from sports are:

Fast Facts On Sports-Related Eye Injuries

  • Nearly 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated in U.S. emergency rooms each year.
  • The majority of eye injuries in children are sports-related.
  • Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the U.S.
  • Roughly 13,500 people become legally blind from sports-related eye injuries each year.
  • 90% of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear, such as safety goggles, safety glasses/shields, and eye guards. 

Highest Risk Sports

Different sports carry different levels of risk with respect to eye injuries. No matter which sport you or your child participate in, never hesitate to wear eye protection.  

Regular prescription glasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses do not protect your eyes against injury. In fact, eyeglasses can make an injury even worse because the lenses can shatter and scratch or puncture the cornea. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, put a pair of safety shatterproof plastic safety goggles on, otherwise known as polycarbonate lenses.

The most common sports-related eye injuries are:

  • Abrasions and contusions
  • Corneal lacerations and abrasions
  • Cataracts
  • Hemorrhages
  • Loss of an eye
  • Orbital fracture (a break in one of the bones surrounding the eye)
  • Retinal detachment
  • Hyphema (the pooling of blood between the cornea and the iris)
  • Ruptured eyeball
  • Blunt trauma

Most Dangerous Sports For Eye Injuries

Here are the high-risk sports for eye injuries:

1. Basketball

In the United States, basketball has proved to be the leading cause of eye injuries. Frequent collisions on the court can lead to retinal detachment and subconjunctival hemorrhage (a burst blood vessel). Basketball players should wear protective eyewear made with polycarbonate lenses to shield their eyes from avoidable injuries. 

2. Baseball

Baseball is one of the leading causes of eye injuries in children aged 14 and younger, according to the National Eye Institute. To keep your eyes safe on the field, consider getting a certified helmet with safety glasses attached. This specially-made protective sports eyewear is designed with batters and base runners' safety in mind.

3. Water Sports

Water sports carry the risk of eye infections from bacteria in the water, and from accidental kicks/blows to the face from other swimmers. Never wear contact lenses and swim in a body of water, as this will likely lead to an eye infection. Wear goggles while swimming, and remember that prescription swim goggles are available to those with vision impairment.  

4. Racquet Sports

Tennis, badminton, and racquetball are high-risk sports that frequently cause eye injuries. Players should wear protective eyewear is highly recommended for these sports, especially since the ball or shuttlecock can travel at high speeds and cause serious damage to the eyes upon impact.

Remember: Regular glasses or sunglasses are not enough.

5. Extreme Sports

Extreme sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and motocross have a higher chance of eye injuries compared to other activities. In these sports, it's important to wear goggles or sunglasses with UV protection.

How To Prevent Sports-Related Eye Injuries

  1. Wear protective eyewear that has been tested for sports use
  2. Make sure the goggles or glasses fit snugly and comfortably
  3. If participating in contact sports, consider using a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield to protect from eye injuries
  4. Avoid wearing regular glasses, as they can shatter upon impact and cause more harm than good
  5. Choose sports goggles with a padded bridge to protect your nose from fractures
  6. If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, consider getting prescription sports goggles
  7. Make sure to take breaks during extended periods of play to rest your eyes
  8. Be cautious when playing any sport that involves flying objects or physical contact
  9. Practice good sportsmanship and avoid dangerous/dirty play
  10. Listen to your body if something doesn't feel right, and seek medical attention immediately after any eye injury

In Case of An Eye Injury

Immediately seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms after a sports-related eye injury:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Pain or pressure in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blood inside the eye
  • Changes in pupil size or shape
  • Trouble moving the affected eye(s)

Get Expert Eye Care at Everett & Hurite

Sports-related ocular injuries are a common occurrence that can have serious consequences, including permanent vision loss. However, by taking simple precautions such as wearing protective eyewear and practicing good sportsmanship, these injuries in sports can be easily prevented.

At Everett & Hurite,  we are committed to providing excellent care for our patients and are available for both in-office and telemedicine visits. If you or your child experiences an eye injury while playing sports, seek medical attention immediately to avoid any long-term damage.

If you have an eye emergency, request an appointment with one of the physicians at Everett & Hurite or call at 412-288-0858.  We remain open for in-office, telemedicine visits, and surgical procedures. We are committed to providing excellent, ongoing care for our patients while taking every possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do we treat sports eye injuries?

The treatment for a sports-related eye injury depends on the type and severity of the injury. In most cases, medical attention from an ophthalmologist is necessary to properly assess and treat the injury. Treatment may involve medication, eye drops, surgery, or other procedures, depending on the specific case. It's important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after sustaining an eye injury during sports.  

What type of eyewear is best for sports?

Sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses are impact-resistant and shatterproof, making them the ideal material for protective eyewear in high-risk sports. They also provide 99% protection against harmful UV rays. 

What is considered a serious eye injury?

A serious eye injury typically refers to an injury that affects the structure of the eye, such as penetrating injuries, blunt injuries, or chemical burns. These types of injuries require immediate medical attention to prevent vision loss or other long-term complications. If you experience any of these types of injuries, seek medical attention immediately.