Everything You Need to Know About Sports-Related Eye Injuries

person showing left eye

The spring sports season is just around the corner, and in some places it has already begun. Due to the pandemic, there are some sports that wouldn’t traditionally take place in spring that have been pushed back. Sports are a great way for your kids to stay active and healthy, but there are some sports that may make them more vulnerable to eye injuries and even permanent vision loss. It’s important to learn about and understand the risks of sports-related eye injuries and make a plan to protect your childrens’ vision. Here’s everything you need to know about sports-related eye injuries.

What Causes Sports-Related Eye Injuries?

Approximately 40,000 Americans experience sports-related eye injuries every year. Of these, the vast majority are caused by basketball, baseball, racquet sports, and water sports. But doctors say that most sports-related eye injuries are completely preventable. Most sport-related eye injuries take place when those participating in the sport in question don’t follow the guidelines for eye safety, which can include following certain rules or wearing eye protection such as goggles.

Risk Levels

Eye doctors have developed a scale to describe the amount of risk present in various sports. You should know just what kinds of risks you’re taking and act accordingly when playing these sports.

Low risk sports are sports such as swimming, cycling, gymnastics, and track and field. They don’t involve items such as balls that can easily cause eye injuries, nor do they, in most cases, involve body contact. While there is still a possibility of eye injury, the risk is very low and shouldn’t be worried about.

High risk sports are sports such as football, baseball, lacrosse, basketball, hockey, and tennis. These sports do involve body contact or the use of balls, racquets, and other possible culprits in eye injuries. On the other hand, many of these sports make use of protective equipment that protects the eyes and aren’t designed in such a way as to encourage eye injuries. While there is a risk of sports-related eye injuries in these sports, that risk can be brought down by proper play and use of protective equipment. 

Very high risk sports, on the other hand, do not make use of protective equipment that will prevent eye injuries. Sports such as martial arts, wrestling, and boxing are high-contact and therefore carry a very high risk for sports-related eye injuries. Vigilant refereeing and careful observance of the rules of play can help mitigate the risk, however.

Types of Sports-Related Eye Injuries

The three types of sports-related eye injuries are blunt trauma, penetrating, and sunlight radiation. 

Of these three types, blunt trauma is the most common. According to Clarity Vision, blunt trauma eye injuries can result in “breaking a bone under your eyeball, rupturing your eyeball as part of a ruptured globe, or your retina detaching.” Of these, a ruptured eyeball or detached retina can result in temporary or permanent partial vision loss in the eye affected.

Penetrating injuries, though less common, are more often the source of permanent partial or complete vision loss. These injuries include scratched eyeballs or deeper penetrating injuries. These types of injuries require immediate medical attention to mitigate any vision loss.

Sunlight radiation injuries happen most often in winter sports due to the glare of the sun off snow. This is why you should always wear sun-treated goggles when skiing or snowboarding.

How to Protect from Sports-Related Eye Injuries

The most important factor in preventing sports-related eye injuries in your kids is to make sure they follow the guidelines for eye protection in their sports. Make sure that their coaches take eye safety seriously in both practices and games, and if they don’t follow eye doctor recommendations then inform those in charge so that this is changed.

If your family has a history of retinal problems, then your children may be more vulnerable to detached retinas due to blunt trauma in sports. Take them in for a comprehensive eye exam and discuss any concerns you may have with the eye doctor. Simple preventative measures are often enough to mitigate these risk factors.

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