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Conditions & Treatments

Sports Eye Injuries

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, sports and recreational activities cause more than 40,000 eye injuries annually. Most of these injuries are preventable. Basketball and baseball are the source of most eye injuries, followed by water and racquet sports. Many of these injuries are sustained by individuals under the age of 30. Children are particularly vulnerable since they typically have underdeveloped depth perception and may have difficulty judging the position of a flying ball.

Types of Injuries

Eye injuries resulting from engaging in sports can range from mild scrapes of the cornea to concussion or severe trauma that can cause visual impairment or even blindness. Corneal abrasions which are scrapes of the outer surface of the eye usually are painful but not severe. Severe blunt trauma can be more concerning since it may result in bleeding in the front of the eye between the clear cornea and colored iris. This condition is known as hyphema. A blunt injury can cause a cut or tear of the eyelids, which may require special suturing. The bony walls surrounding the eye may also be fractured by severe blunt trauma. This type of trauma may also potentially damage the retina or optic nerve.

Penetrating injuries occur when a foreign object pierces the eye. A common cause of these injuries in children is BB pellets. In addition, pieces of glass shattered from glasses during sports can possibly penetrate the eye. If this occurs, there is the potential of sight-threatening damage.

Warning Signs of Potentially Serious Eye Injuries

  • Visual loss
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Bleeding on the surface or inside the eye
  • Tears in the outer ocular walls
  • A foreign body inside the eye.


The best prevention of eye injury while participating in sports is to wear specially designed protective eyewear. Although it cannot eliminate the risk, it can significantly reduce the potential of ocular injury. Regular eyeglasses and contact lenses do not offer sufficient protection from sports injuries. Glass lenses may even shatter and cut the eye.

The standard eye guard designed for sports such as racquetball, baseball and basketball is made of polycarbonate (plastic) and has closed lenses and sports frames. Open lenses should be avoided since a ball traveling at high speed can be compressed through the opening and cause severe eye damage.

If any of these types of sports injuries are sustained, and particularly if there is any eye trauma, you should immediately schedule a comprehensive eye examination with one of our physicians.

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