Apr 5th 2023

Sports Eye Safety 101: Protecting & Preventing Against Injury

 Sports Eye Safety 101: Protecting & Preventing Against Injury
Sports eye injuries

Every year, 40,000 eye injuries are caused by sport-related accidents. Every 13 minutes, an emergency room in the United States treats a sports-related eye injury. In some cases this can result in serious damage to the eye, or in worse cases, can even be the cause of blindness. The good news is that according to eye care professionals, most of these injuries can actually be prevented. Throughout this article, we will take a look at some of the best ways to protect your eyes so you can stay off those benches with clear vision. in the United States. According to eye care professionals, most of these injuries can be prevented.

The Most Dangerous Sports For Eye Safety

Every year, over 25,000 people sustain sports-related eye injuries. In a study on kids-sports injuries, basketball was the leading sport that caused the majority of visits to the emergency room. When comparing all age groups together, water sports and activities were named the leading cause of eye injuries and considered to be the most dangerous when it came to eye safety.

So, how do the most dangerous sports stack up? Check out the list of sports that caused the most visits to the emergency room, provided by Prevent Blindness, the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization. It’s no wonder water and pool play is the first on the list, as it is not advised to keep our eyes open underwater, but sports like bicycling and soccer may surprise you. Take a look at the list below to find out which sports are classified as high-risk.

Top 10 Sports That Caused Eye Injuries
  1. Water and Pool Play: 6,605
  2. Basketball: 5,141
  3. BB Guns, Paintball Guns, Darts and Arrows: 2,798
  4. Baseball and Softball: 2,488
  5. Weight Training and Health Club Exercise: 2,253
  6. Bicycling: 1,864
  7. Football: 1,448
  8. Unspecified activities: 1,445
  9. Soccer: 1,390
  10. Playground: 1,180

(Source: “Sports-Related Eye Injuries by Age-2017.” Figures for injuries are estimates and reflect all ages.)

If you’re playing any kind of sport, an eye injury is a real possibility. To protect your vision, eye health professionals recommend that you always wear protective eyewear, no matter what sport you play.

The Most Common Eye Injuries In Sports

Most sports involve physical contact either with another athlete or with an object, such as a ball or a puck. The more contact is involved, the higher the risk for injuries. When an athlete doesn’t wear protective eyewear, eye injuries are more likely to happen.

Sports-related eye injuries can pose significant risks to athletes of all levels– from amateurs to professionals. These injuries encompass a range of scenarios, including blunt injuries resulting from sudden impacts by objects like tennis balls or physical contact, which can lead to black eyes, bleeding in front of the eye (hyphema), or even fractures near the eye. Corneal abrasions, caused by painful scrapes on the eye's outer surface, often occur due to inadvertent finger pokes during sports activities. Perhaps most concerning are penetrating injuries, where foreign objects can pierce the eye, potentially causing severe damage and resulting in the need for immediate medical attention to prevent vision loss. Understanding the types and risks of sports-related eye injuries is crucial for athletes, coaches, and healthcare professionals to promote eye safety in sports. Here, we will take a deeper dive into what these types of injuries can result in.

The Most Common Mechanisms of Sports Eye Trauma

  • Blunt Eye Trauma

    Sports injury is one of the common causes of blunt trauma to the eye. Blunt eye trauma occurs when the eye sustains a forceful impact. This type of trauma has the potential to inflict harm on the eye's internal structures, potentially giving rise to serious eye conditions such as hyphema (bleeding within the eye), retinal tears or detachments, and in severe cases, a ruptured globe. The term "globe" in optics refers to the eyeball itself, excluding its associated appendages.

  • Corneal Abrasions

    Corneal abrasions involve painful scrapes on the external surface of the eye, specifically the cornea. Most corneal abrasions typically heal on their own over time, but it is essential to consult a medical professional for a proper evaluation to determine the extent of the abrasion. Medication may be prescribed to manage pain. The most frequent cause of a sports-related corneal abrasion is accidental contact with a finger poking the eye

  • Penetrating Injuries

    Penetrating eye injuries have the potential to result in significant vision impairment or even the loss of the eye altogether. These injuries occur when a foreign object penetrates the eye, and while they are not frequently encountered sports-related injuries, they are not entirely unheard of. These incidents can occur most commonly if one wears glasses during physical activities and breaks, causing the eyeglass fragments to cut the eye. Additionally, a penetrating eye injury can occur if the eye comes into contact with a sharp object causing a scratch or cut.

  • Radiation Injury

    Radiation injury stems from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, primarily originating from the sun. This type of injury is particularly common among enthusiasts of water sports and winter activities, such as water skiing and snow skiing. The use of protective eyewear equipped with UV-blocking technology serves as a pivotal preventive measure against eye injuries caused by radiation.

Top 5 Sports Eye Injuries

What are the most popular eye injuries caused by sports?

  • Corneal abrasion

    Corneal abrasion can happen in any sport. Among all sports-related eye injuries, this is the mildest. Corneal abrasion occurs when the front of your eye, the cornea, sustains a superficial scratch from dust, dirt, sand, or other foreign objects. In places where soccer is played frequently, one-third of sports-related eye injuries are caused by a soccer ball.

  • Traumatic Iritis

    Traumatic iritis is a painful inflammation of the iris resulting from blunt trauma to the eye. This condition is often associated with symptoms such as eye pain, redness, and excessive tearing. It’s important to note that traumatic iritis can develop relatively quickly, often within a period of three days following the initial traumatic incident. Beyond the discomfort it causes, this condition carries potential risks, including long-term complications such as glaucoma or cataracts when left untreated. Therefore, it is important to seek immediate medical attention to diagnose and manage traumatic iritis effectively, reducing the likelihood of complications and facilitating a quicker recovery.

  • Hyphema

    Hyphema is one of the most common sports-related eye injuries. Hyphema is a medical term used to describe a condition in which there is bleeding or blood collection within the anterior chamber of the eye, which is the space between the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) and the iris (the colored part of the eye). Often, it’s a painful type of bleeding that typically occurs as a result of some form of eye injury or trauma, such as being hit by an object, a sports-related injury, or a car accident. Most hyphema injuries in sports are caused by racquet sports, baseball, and softball. The presence of blood in the front of the eye can partially or completely block vision and is usually accompanied by symptoms like pain, redness, and blurred vision. Hyphema is a serious eye condition that requires prompt medical attention to prevent complications and assess the extent of the injury.

  • Angle recession

    Angle recession usually occurs after a blunt eye trauma, and it is also highly associated with hyphema. Angle recession results from the separation of the ciliary muscle fibers. The ciliary muscle is important for two eye functions. It aids in the eye's ability to adjust its lens for focusing at different distances, while also regulating the flow of aqueous humor within the eye.–Athletes with angle recession are at high risk of developing glaucoma caused by problems with aqueous humor outflow and an increased in intraocular pressure. Traumatic glaucoma can happen soon after the eye injury or even many years later.

  • Retinal tear or retinal detachment

    While most retinal tears occur naturally due to aging, traumatic retinal breaks happen as a result of blunt force trauma to the globe of the eye. The presence of tears within the retina poses a potential threat of retinal detachment, which can lead to significant vision impairment or loss. Traumatic retinal tears are much more likely to lead to detachment and have a greater potential for subsequent vision loss. Instances of traumatic retinal tears in sports encompass a range of scenarios, such as deliberate eye gouging incidents in rugby, getting hit in the eye by a soccer ball, experiencing impact from a squash ball, or encountering a finger poke to the eye during a basketball game.

Seek immediate medical attention for any type of sports eye injury, as all of these types of injuries can permanently affect your eye health or threaten your vision, even without short-term or obvious symptoms It is important to note that an athlete who has faced any form of eye injury n may only return to the sport only after being examined by an eye doctor with confirmed permission to return to the sport.

How To Protect Your Eyes In Sports

According to ophthalmologists, 90% of sports eye injuries are preventable by wearing proper eyewear. Learn what provides enough protection for your eyes and what doesn’t. Here are a few key points to remember when protecting your eyes.

  • Regular eyeglasses:While essential for vision correction, regular eyeglasses lack the necessary protective features to safeguard the eyes during sports or activities with a higher risk of eye injuries. In some cases, wearing regular eyeglasses can exacerbate an eye injury if they shatter upon impact, potentially causing more harm. To ensure proper eye safety during sports or hazardous tasks, it is advisable to use specialized sports goggles or safety glasses specifically designed to withstand impact and reduce the risk of eye injuries. These protective eyewear options are engineered to provide an extra layer of defense for the eyes, shielding them from potential harm and enhancing overall safety.
  • Contact lenses: Although helpful, they don’t protect your eyes from potential injuries in sports. Contact lenses lack a physical barrier to shield the eyes from external hazards like airborne debris or impact, making them vulnerable in high-risk situations. Although some contact lenses incorporate UV protection, it's often limited and may not cover the entire eye surface, leaving surrounding areas exposed to harmful UV radiation. Furthermore, contact lenses require meticulous hygiene to prevent infections, and their potential to dislodge during physical activities can disrupt vision and increase injury risks.
  • Polycarbonate lenses: These lenses are up to 10 times stronger than plastic or glass lenses, and they provide adequate protection from UV-rays. Polycarbonate lenses are known for their exceptional strength and durability. Their resilience makes them an excellent choice for eyewear in environments where the risk of impact or accidents is prevalent, especially in sports arenas. Polycarbonate lenses excel at withstanding forceful blows and resisting shattering like traditional glasses, reducing the potential for eye injuries. They also offer a layer of defense against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays, which is an excellent choice for outdoor or water-related sports.
  • Choosing the right eyewear: Ensuring that you wear the appropriate eye protection specific to the sport or activity you're engaging in is fundamental to avoiding sport-related eye injuries. For instance, sports like basketball or racquetball may demand protective eyewear designed to withstand impacts from fast-moving balls or player contact, reducing the risk of eye trauma. Additionally, water sports or skiing necessitate eye protection that safeguards against UV rays and glare reflecting off water or snow. Choosing the right eyewear not only safeguards your vision but also can improve your agility and coordination by supporting your vision needs.

How To Protect Your Eyes In Sports

Safeguarding your vision on the playing field isn't just a matter of personal responsibility, it's a collective effort that involves parents, teachers, school nurses, coaches, and the entire community. By promoting awareness and advocating for the use of appropriate protective eyewear tailored to each sport, we can significantly reduce the occurrence and severity of eye injuries among athletes. By using appropriate eye protection, we can create a safer sports environment where athletes can pursue their passion with confidence and achieve results better than ever.

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Nick Zelver
Nick Zelver

Nick Zelver is the Editor at WebEyeCare. With a professional journey beginning at Optimax Eyewear in Tel Aviv, Nick excelled as the Director of Online Sales Channels, where he spearheaded the development of strategic sales channels and branding initiatives, fostering significant growth in online sales. His notable achievements in the field are underpinned by a rigorous academic foundation, having earned an entrance scholarship to Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University).

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