Sports are fun, but they can also expose players to eye injuries, some of which result in impaired eye vision or even irreversible blindness. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, each year sees over 40,000 cases of sports-related eye injuries!
Although the statistics seem grim, there is hope. Prevent Blindness America, a leading volunteer eye health and safety organization, reports that 90% of all reported eye injuries in sports can be prevented if you take the necessary precautions and use protective eyewear.
Which Sports Can Cause Eye Injury?
Sports that expose players to eye injury are usually classified into 3 groups:
- Low risk sports involve zero bodily contact and no flying or swinging tools (like balls, pucks, bats, and rackets). E.g. car racing, track/field running, cycling, gymnastics, and swimming.
- High-risk sports (or collision sports), involve flying objects and a significant amount of body contact between players. E.g. lacrosse, tennis, baseball, football, and basketball.
- Very high-risk sports that involve extensive body contact and players often aren’t allowed to use protective eyewear, increasing maximum exposure to possible eye injuries in sports like wrestling, MMA, boxing, etc.
Types of Sports-Related Eye Injuries
- Abrasions: Medically referred to as a corneal abrasion, this is the least serious form of sports-related eye injury. It usually occurs when something sharp (e.g. fingernail or fencing sword) scrapes the outer surface of the eye, which is usually quite painful.
- Eye Trauma: This is the most common injury type and occurs when something (fist, ball, knee, etc.) hits the eye with significant force. Eye trauma can cause mild (e.g. bruise) or severe (e.g. retinal bleeding) damage, depending on size, hardness, and velocity of the object hitting the eye.
- Penetrating Injuries: These are the most serious eye injuries, almost always resulting in sight-threatening damage. They occur when foreign objects (e.g. BB pellets, pieces of eyeglasses) hit and pierce the eye.
- Radiation Injuries: Caused by over-exposure to UV rays, these are quite rare and only occur with snow- and water-related activities.
- Orbital Fracture:: Usually caused by a blunt force that breaks the bone surrounding the eyeball, the orbital fracture can also include optic nerve damage and facial trauma.
Depending on the severity of eye injuries in sports, certain cases can also result in permanent blindness. Any type of vision impairment will not only keep you out of the game for months but also affect your day-to-day life. This is why the importance of protective eyewear cannot be understated. Eye protection gear is easily available for all mainstream games including football, cricket, basketball, racquetball, lacrosse, skiing, golf as well as water polo.
Safety glasses not only ensure eye protection against foreign matter and flying balls but also keep the risk of impaired eye vision at bay.
Common Eye Injury Symptoms
- Pain and/or bruising over affected eye
- Blurred vision or visual loss
- External or internal hemorrhage
- The feeling of a foreign body within the eye
Preventive Tips and Precautions
- Wear protective eyewear with cushioning along the eyebrows and polycarbonate lenses (that are powerful enough to protect against a .22 caliber bullet).
- Being extra careful when engaging in sports that involve sharp or flying objects.
- Wearing helmets and other face shields when appropriate.
- Perfecting your dodging skills!
- Get professional helps when picking your eye protection gear to ensure you are wearing relevant eye guards or goggles that shield your eyes against harmful UV rays.
Returning to Sports after an Eye Injury
Only an ophthalmologist can accurately predict how long an injured eye will take to fully heal, after conducting a thorough eye checkup. This is why it’s crucial to visit an eye doctor immediately after sustaining a sports-triggered eye injury.
Why Athletes Should Consider LASIK
Visually impaired athletes are at a great disadvantage. Their vision is less than a 100%, but corrective visual aids don’t help. Contact lenses get easily irritated by dirt or sweat, while eyeglasses can shatter while playing, and possibly even pierce the eyes. The best solution is LASIK (Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) surgery.
This special form of laser operation corrects a number of eye problems. With successful LASIK surgery and full recovery (usually at least 2 weeks), a visually impaired athlete will be able to play without wearing contact lenses or glasses. Tiger Woods, Greg Maddux, and LeBron James are some famous athletes who have enjoyed the benefits of LASIK.
Other than wearing a faceguard or protective eyewear that will bear the brunt of any impact during a game, visiting an eye care center for LASIK surgery could be your smartest move. At Insight Vision Center, we have an experienced eye care team that specializes in eye injury treatment and can efficiently address all your vision related issues. So, if you are ever faced with an eye injury, book an emergency appointment with us and keep your vision intact.