Promoting Excellence in Maryland's Trauma Care

A collaborative statewide approach to address issues
related to all aspects of trauma care delivery

Sports-related Eye Injury Prevention

Every year in the United States, about 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated in the Emergency Department. 

Most common causes of sports-related eye injuries are:

  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Airsoft rifles
  • Pellet guns
  • Racquetball
  • Hockey

Types of sports-related eye injury that can be prevented are:

  • Corneal abrasiona superficial scratch on the clear protective window of the eye
  • Traumatic iritisinflammation of the iris (colored part)
  • Hyphema the presence of blood within the aqueous fluid of the anterior chamber
  • Traumatic cataractclouding of the normally clear lens of the eye  
  • Detached retinacritical layer of tissue at the back eye pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides is with oxygen and nutrients
  • Fracture of the eye socketone of more of the bones surrounding the eye, are broken

How to protect yourself from a sports-related eye injury

About 9 out of 10 serious eye injuries can be prevented by wearing protective eyewear.

Athletes should wear face guards, visors, and other sports eye protection during play depending on the particular sport:

  • Wear protective sports glasses with polycarbonate lenses, a shatterproof plastic, for sports such as basketball, racquet sports, soccer, and field hockey. Choose eye protectors that have been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials standards or that pass the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) racquet sports standard. 
  • Wear a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield in ice hockey and men’s lacrosse. Choose hockey face masks approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the CSA.
  • Wear protective glasses or goggles with ultra-violet protection when snow or water skiing to protect your eyes from sunburn and glare.
  • Do not wear prescription glasses as protective eyewear or underneath protective goggles. Sunglasses and occupational safety glasses also do not provide appropriate protection.

Spectators should also be careful at sporting events and watch out for balls, bats, and other flying objects.

What to do if you get a sports-related eye injury?

Even if the injury seems minor, seek care with an eye doctor immediately or go to the Emergency Department to prevent delays in medical attention which could result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

Blog submitted by:

Fasika Woreta

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Residency Program Director, Director of the Eye Trauma Center

Wilmer Eye Institute (Johns Hopkins Medicine)

Brittany Tsou

MD Candidate 

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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