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Sports Eye Safety

Many sport related eye injuries could be prevented by using the correct safety eyewear.


Whether you are playing sports as a hobby or competitively there is a lot to consider. Are you using proper form? Is your equipment up to date? Are you warmed up? Are you wearing the appropriate safety gear? Is your opponent looking bigger and stronger than last time? Seriously, did he grow six inches? Whatever your thought process or preparation is you may be missing a key step. Are you wearing your protective eye-wear?


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According to research there are 100,000 eye injuries sustained each year that occurred while playing sports. Out of those 100,000 injuries, 42,000 resulted in a visit to the emergency room. Now this injury can occur with a variety of sports and with people playing sports as a hobby. Sports eye injuries are one of the leading causes of blindness in children in the United States. The shocking thing is 90% of these injuries could have been prevented if the person was wearing the correct eye-wear. These injuries can range in severity and can result in blindness.


Some of the common eye injuries from sports are:

  • Corneal abrasion: The cornea is the clear dome shaped structure that vaults over the iris/pupil. This structure is responsible for protection as well as refracting light into the eye so you can see. It is a highly innervated structure, meaning, when it gets scratched it is very painful. Depending on the severity of scratch it can cause scarring, which effects vision. Just like a scratch/scrape on our skin there is also a chance for an infection. Especially if the scratch is from a person's fingernail. Getting poked in the eye by an opponent is fairly common. Think of sports like basketball and people are going up for a rebound, accidental corneal abrasions occur when everyone is going for the ball.

  • Traumatic cataract: The lens is structure inside the eye that is responsible for focusing light to the retina to form a clear image. It is made up of different layers and can change in size and shape depending on the visual target. A traumatic cataract can occur with blunt force trauma to the eye or a penetration of the eye. Just like an age-related cataract, a traumatic cataract impedes vision. This type of injury can be more common with racquet sports, think tennis and racquet ball. These balls are traveling at a high rate of speed and can fit into the orbit.

  • Hyphema (blood inside the anterior chamber of the eye): The anterior chamber of the eye is the ocular structures from the lens to the cornea. Inside the anterior chamber is a drainage system that regulates the pressure inside the eye. In cases of trauma the iris can become damaged and blood vessels inside the iris can tear, causing blood to fill the anterior chamber of the eye. Depending on the severity of the injury the blood inside the anterior chamber can elevate the pressure inside the eye, which can be very painful and cause damage to other ocular structures. If blood fills the entire anterior chamber, and doesn't drain, the blood can stain the cornea and cause vision loss.

  • Traumatic iritis: Many people recognize the iris is the structure that is different colors (brown, green, gray, blue, hazel). It also functions to regulate the amount of light that is allowed into the eye. In cases of trauma the iris and associated structures (ciliary body, etc.) become inflamed, which results in pain, light sensitivity, etc. (see our blog on iritis).

  • Orbital fracture: The orbit is the bony structure that protects the eye. It is composed of 7 bones. Some of these bones are very thin. Blunt force trauma can cause these bones to fracture. Depending on the bone that breaks it can entrap one of the muscles responsible for eye movement and cause a strabismus (eye-turn). In some cases a piece of the broken bone penetrated the eye and was lodged inside the eye.

  • Retina damage: The retina is the neurologic structure inside the eye that forms visual images. In cases of trauma it can be easily damaged. Different types of damage can occur to the retina. Common injuries can be commotio retinae and retinal detachments. Commotio retinae is swelling of the retina from shock waves associated with blunt force trauma. This edema causes decreased vision. A retinal detachment is where the retina detaches from the underlying tissue (choroid). This causes sight loss in the area of the detachment.


Proper eye protection can make a big difference in preventing these injuries. Unfortunately, safety eye-wear is not a mandatory piece of safety equipment like other pieces of equipment. It is important to note that contact lenses and every day glasses are not protective eye wear. There are safety lenses on the market for athletes and they are not just for people who need corrective lenses to see!


Depending on the sport being played there are different eye-wear for protection.

  • Polycarbonate sports googles: Polycarbonate is an impact resistant material. With theses googles the lens and the frames are meant to sustain impact to protect the athlete.

  • Polycarbonate face shields: This would be helpful for football or hockey where the athlete is always wearing a helmet. Even a wire face guard would be beneficial in hockey to prevent the hockey player from being hit in the eye or nose.


This sports season talk to your eye-care provider about the most appropriate eye protection for your sport!


Prevent eye injuries by wearing proper eye protection.

Posted by Advanced Vision Therapy Center at 4/18/2017 1:47:00 AM
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With over 25 years of proven success, you can trust Advanced Vision Therapy Center to provide the care you need.

Our Clinical Director is Idaho's only residency trained optometrist in vision therapy and neuro-optometry and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.  His residency at University of California, Berkeley means he has the expertise and experience to treat even the most complex cases.

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