Playing Defense: Preventing Sports-Related Eye Injuries

News // Apr 02 2019

New research shows that about 30,000 people in the United States go to emergency departments each year with sports-related eye injuries, a substantially higher estimate than previously reported. This April during Sports Eye Safety Month, the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and the American Academy of Ophthalmology remind the public that the right protective eyewear is the best defense against eye injury.

Three sports accounted for almost half of all trips to the emergency room: basketball, baseball, and air/paintball guns. Sports-related injuries can range from corneal abrasions and bruises on the lids to more serious, vision-threatening internal injuries, such as a retinal detachment and internal bleeding.

Ophthalmologists continue to remind the public that most sports-related eye injuries are avoidable.

Here are some tips for both the professional athlete and the Little League star to stay safe:

  • Athletes should wear sports eye protection that meets the requirements set by appropriate organizations.
  • Parents should make sure that children wear eye protection. Most often, those who sustain sports-related eye injuries are 18 years old or younger.
  • Eye protection can weaken with age and may no longer provide adequate protection. Consider replacing when damaged or yellowed.
  • For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses.
  • Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear. Contacts offer no protection and glasses do not provide enough defense.
  • Professional athletes should also wear sports goggles that meet national standards.

“Wear protective eyewear FULL TIME, but especially with any sporting activity, for any individuals who have poor vision in one eye to reduce the risk of injuring their good/better seeing eye which could lead them with low/no vision in both eyes.” Jennifer Larson, MD, Assistant Professor at the Department of Ophthalmology, said.

To learn more ways to keep your eyes healthy, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website.