When discussing safety in sports, it would be a disservice not to discuss the prevention of injuries to the eye. According to the American Academy of Opthalmology, over 40,000 people are sent to the emergency room due to a sports-related eye injury every year. Around half of those injuries belonged to children. Fortunately, 90% of eye injuries in sports can be prevented with appropriate protective eyewear. 

What Causes Eye Injuries In Sports

Sports involving a ball or other object as a projectile carry the potential for injury to the eye. Baseball and tennis players most often tend to get hit with fast-moving balls. Many basketball players get hit with elbows or hands to the face, as well as misguided passes from teammates. Contact sports such as boxing, wrestling, and football possess an extremely high risk of causing serious eye injuries, such as orbital fractures and retinal detachment due to directed and purposeful blunt force trauma.  

Another type of common eye injury includes corneal abrasions and lacerations. These are often caused by dirt, small stones, splinters, or shards of plastic or glass entering the eye. While this is the easiest injury to treat, it is also the easiest to prevent. Protective eyewear keeps foreign objects out of the eyes when rolling about on the ground or taking the risk of a piece of equipment splintering. 

How To Protect Eyes During Sports

Protective sports glasses and goggles are the first line of defense against injury to the eye. Made with a shatterproof plastic called polycarbonate, they should be strong enough to withstand impact. They should fit properly without risk of falling off or becoming displaced during bouts of intense motion or jarring blows. Any protective eyewear should also meet the appropriate standards of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). While headgear exists, there is no proper eye protection for combat sports such as boxing. 

Regular eyeglasses do not provide the appropriate protection while playing sports. They don't prevent objects from making contact with the side of your face, and they pose a further risk of damage or injury if a direct blow shatters them. If need be, prescription sports lenses are available to ensure both proper eyesight and safety. 

Spectators should also be aware of any possible risks to their eyes. Balls, equipment, and even players sometimes unexpectedly end up in the stands. Any spectators should pay close attention to the game and watch for any flying objects or errant athletes. 

Other tips for keeping eyes safe from injury during sports include:

  • Pay attention to what is happening in the game or activity to prevent being surprised by a fast-moving projectile or another player.
  • Check all safety gear ahead of time to ensure that it isn't worn or damaged. 
  • Use face shields with helmets when you can, as many of them still have spaces that balls or hands can pass through. 
  • Ensure that any eyewear meets the appropriate safety and manufacturing standards of the sport or activity for which it will be used. 

If you have any vision loss or reduced vision in one eye, check with an ophthalmologist before starting any sport or activity with a risk of injury to your other eye.


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