Not Just Helmets and Pads: Adequate Protection Helps You Avoid Sports-Related Eye Injuries

Sprains, bruises and fractures are not the only types of injuries that can plague athletes. Eye injuries occur in a variety of sports, and often have very serious consequences. Wearing eye protection can prevent most of these injuries, yet too often athletes choose to go without this important piece of sports equipment.

Eye injuries are particularly common in children and account for approximately 100,000 physician visits yearly, according to the National Eye Institute. Adding goggles or other types of eye protection to your sports gear bag will help you avoid a potentially devastating injury.

Sports by Risk

You are most at risk for an eye injury if your sport involves the use of sticks, balls, pucks, racquets, bats or body-to-body contact. High-risk sports include football, boxing, basketball, paintball, baseball, water polo, contact martial arts, racquet sports, hockey and lacrosse.

Your chances of experiencing an eye injury are low if you participate in swimming, bicycling, bowling, gymnastics and track-and-field events.

What Are Common Eye Injuries?

Sports-related eye injuries usually fall into one of four categories: penetrating, blunt trauma, radiation and corneal abrasions.

Penetrating injuries occur when a foreign object cuts the eye. Sometimes, if an athlete plays a sport while wearing glasses, a lens can shatter and penetrate the eye, or another player can accidentally scratch an eye with a fingernail. Blunt trauma injuries occur when you are hit in the eye with an object or collide with another player. These injuries can fracture the bones surrounding the eye, rupture the eyeball or detach your retina.

Radiation injuries cause pain and redness and typically occur when snow or water skiers receive too much sun exposure.

Corneal abrasions are painful scrapes that often happen when a fellow player's finger accidentally comes in contact with your cornea, the clear layer of tissue that covers your iris.

Signs and Symptoms of Eye Injuries

Signs and symptoms of eye injuries vary depending on the type and severity, but may include:

  • Decreased vision
  • Tearing
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Feeling that something is in your eye
  • Sunken eye
  • Double vision
  • Eyelid or facial swelling
  • Difficult following objects with your eyes
  • Unusual pupil size
  • Blood in the whites of the eyes

What Type of Protective Eyewear Should I Choose?

Some people do not like to wear protective eyewear because they are afraid that it will interfere with their vision, but today's eye protection options are thin, lightweight and made with impact-resistant polycarbonate. Look for goggles, face shields and other eyewear labeled "ASTM F803 approved." This means that the eye protection meets the standards of the American Society of Testing Materials. Try on all protective eyewear, and make sure it fits properly and will not fall off when you run or jump.

Although sunglasses provide some protection from UV rays, they will not protect you from stray balls or a finger to the eye. The lenses in goggles are designed to pop outward if the goggles take a direct hit. Sunglasses do not offer this important safety feature.

Do you need eye protection for your favorite sport? Call us and schedule an appointment. Whether you need prescription or non-prescription protective lenses, we can help you find the perfect type of protective eyewear.