Sports-related ocular injuries are a common cause of ocular trauma and occur in almost every sport. The most common sports involved in ocular trauma are hockey, baseball, fencing, lacrosse, boxing, martial arts (full contact) and squash/racquetball (racket sports). Depending on the source of the injury, the force of impact and the mechanism of trauma, the effects of eye trauma in sport can be devastating.
In the United States, there are an estimated 40,000 sports and recreation-related eye injuries every year. “The eye injury risk of a sport is proportional to the likelihood of the eye being impacted with sufficient energy to cause harm”. Vinger classified sports injuries into four categories: high risk, moderate risk, low risk, and eye safe.
Fortunately, many of the sports-related ocular injuries are preventable. In fact, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) required hockey players to wear facemasks in 1977 and the incidence of eye injury declined dramatically since implementation. Eye protection in youth sports is paramount in reducing the risk of injury from eye trauma. Protective eyewear for leisure and sports fall into three main types: 1) Street wear frames with 2mm polycarbonate lenses; 2) Sports frames with 3mm polycarbonate lenses; and 3) Helmet-facemask combinations. 1 Its important to see an Orange County ophthalmologist to further evaluate one’s need for protective eyewear in any particular sport.
If an eye injury is suspected during a sporting event and vision loss or severe pain has occurred, then the patient is advised to go to the nearest emergency room where urgent referral to the on-call ophthalmologist should occur. The ophthalmologist will then be able to diagnose and treat accordingly (sometimes direct emergent access to an ophthalmologist is possible depending on one’s insurance, and geographic location).
Ocular trauma in sports can be devastating but with prevention and early treatment, permanent vision loss can often be avoided.
Thanks to our friend and blog author, Dr. Charles Eifrig of Retina Associates of Orange County, for his insight into sport related eye injuries.