Koa Sports

Sports-Related Eye Injuries: What Athletes Need To Know

When you play sports, eye injuries are a very real risk. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), it’s estimated that around 100,000 athletes suffer eye injuries each year and around 13,000 of those individuals suffer from permanent vision loss.


The good news, however, is that an estimated 90% of those injuries would be preventable with the use of protective eyewear. Whether athletes are playing sports professionally or recreationally, whether they’re on the court or in the pool, it’s important to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for eye injuries.


There are specific sports where eye injuries are more prevalent:


  • High risk sports: Baseball, fencing, hockey, lacrosse, softball
  • Moderate risk: Football, soccer, tennis, badminton, golf, volleyball
  • Low risk: Swimming, diving, wrestling


The best way to prevent eye injuries is to take certain measures to protect your eyes before engaging in sports activities. Many of the sports listed above allow (or require) athletes to wear protective eyewear, and it’s imperative that athletes follow these guidelines.  




Blunt trauma happens quite often in sports. On many occasions, this happens when a ball of some sort hits the person directly in the eye. This can be highly dangerous, and the injuries can go well past a simple eye injury; these type of injuries can also cause concussions and other long-term injuries. Direct hits from a ball or a hockey puck can cause serious damage to the eye, but even an accidental finger or elbow jab could cause a devastating injury. For this reason, even the lowest-risk sports can be dangerous.


Radiation injuries are another possible cause of a eye damage in sporting events. These injuries are especially common in water sports and winter sports, where the sun reflects off surface water or snow. Though it is not discussed very often, UV light rays can damage the eyes just as they can damage the skin.


Treatment and Prevention

Some of the best ways to prevent eye injuries is the use of proper goggles to give optimal protection. Sports like lacrosse, hockey, and football require athletes to wear some form of eyewear protection. Some of these sports require athletes to use specific face gear that has been sanctioned by an official organization.


A number of people believe that regular prescription glasses will protect them from eye injuries; however, this is not true. In fact, if you are hit in the eye area while wearing regular prescription glasses, you run the risk of being injured if the glass breaks.


If damage done to your eye is severe enough, eye surgery may be needed to correct or mitigate the problem. Some injuries, such as retinal detachments, can be fixed through rather straightforward procedures. However, more severe injuries could have lasting effects that are more difficult to treat. Unfortunately, the physical therapy and chiropractic treatments that are helpful for other sports injuries are not feasible options when an eye injury occurs.


Quite simply, if you play any sport, it’s imperative to pay attention to the way you’re protecting your eyes. Even a low impact sport can easily can an eye-related injury. It’s important to know about these risks before beginning any athletic activity. For a more comprehensive guide to protecting your eyes, don’t hesitate to contact your local eye doctor, like an experienced Newport Beach Eye Surgeon, today.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Retina Associates of Orange County for their insight into sports-related eye injuries.

Koa Sports