Skip to main content

Our Office Is Now Open Regular Hours

Monday Through Saturday 9:30AM to 4:30PM

Please Schedule an Appointment

eyeglasses-wall-display-on-a-slant
Home »

sports

Sports-Related Eye Injuries

September Is Sports Eye Safety Month!

Ocular sports trauma is among the leading causes of permanent vision loss in North America. Tens of thousands of people get treated for sports-related eye injuries a year, with the most common injuries occurring during water sports and basketball. Infections, corneal abrasions, eye socket fractures, and detached retinas are just a few of the typical cases eye doctors encounter on a regular basis.

Sports Eye Safety Month is sponsored by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) to remind people to protect their eyes when playing sports. Though young children are usually the most vulnerable to eye injuries, it should be noted that professional athletes can also suffer eye injuries while on the job. 

Eye accidents can happen in a split second – the effects can last a lifetime…

By wearing protective eyewear, you can safeguard your eyesight without compromising on your favorite sports activities. Athletes who wear contact lenses still need additional eye protection for relevant sports.

At Dr. Sills and Associates, our eye doctor is experienced and trained to treat sports-induced eye injuries sustained by our active patients. Dr. Richard Sills and our dedicated staff are committed to providing the most comprehensive eye care to help get you back on the field again. Furthermore, we provide consultations on a wide array of protective eyewear for all your sporting needs. 

What Eye Injuries Can Be Caused by Sports?

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion, also known as a scratched cornea, is the most common sports-related eye injury. When someone gets poked in the eye, the eye’s surface can get scratched. Symptoms may include acute pain and a gritty or foreign body sensation in the eyes, as well as redness, tearing, light sensitivity, headaches, blurry or decreased vision. Medical care includes prevention or treatment of infection, and pain management. If you suspect that you have suffered a corneal abrasion, make sure to see an eye doctor right away. 

Traumatic Iritis

Iritis is an inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye. The condition rapidly develops and typically affects only one eye. Symptoms include pain in the eye or brow region, blurred vision, a small or oddly-shaped pupil, and sensitivity to bright lights. 

Hyphema

Hyphema is among the more common sports-related eye injuries, with racquet sports, baseball and softball accounting for more than 50% of all hyphema injuries in athletics. 

A hyphema is a broken blood vessel inside the eye which causes blood to collect in the space between the cornea and iris, also known as the “anterior chamber”. Although the main symptom is blood in the eye, it can be accompanied by blurry or distorted vision, light sensitivity or eye pain.  

If you recognize the signs and symptoms of hyphema, make sure to seek immediate medical attention in order to avoid secondary complications. 

Angle recession

Angle recession can develop from an eye injury or bruising of the eye, caused by getting punched, elbowed, or hit with a ball. The trauma damages the fluid drainage system of the eye, which causes it to back up, increasing the pressure in the eye. In 20% of people with angle recession, this pressure can become so severe that it damages the optic nerve, and causes glaucoma (known as “angle-recession glaucoma”). 

You may not notice any symptoms at first, and it may take years before you experience any signs of vision loss. Therefore, it’s critical to visit the eye doctor as soon as possible for a complete eye exam and make sure that you follow-up with routine screenings. 

Retinal tear or detachment

Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina gets lifted or pulled away from its normal position at the back of the eye. If not treated immediately, retinal detachment can develop permanent vision loss.

Symptoms include seeing flashing lights, floaters or little black spots in your vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency and requires an eye doctor’s immediate attention – surgical intervention may be necessary.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage 

This happens when a blood vessel breaks on the white part of the eye. In addition to a sport-related injury, it can be induced by rubbing the eye, heavy lifting, sneezing or coughing. For those with subconjunctival hemorrhage, the eye appears intensely red – though this minor condition will often clear up within a couple weeks on its own without treatment.

Orbital Fracture 

This occurs when one or more of the bones around the eyeball break, often caused by a hard blow to the face – such as by a baseball or a fist. This is a major injury and should be assessed by an eye doctor, like Dr. Richard Sills, along with X-Rays or CT scan imaging to help confirm the diagnosis.

Black Eye or Periorbital Hematoma

A “shiner” can occur when a blunt object such as a fist or ball strikes the eye-area of the face and causes bruising. Typically, this kind of injury affects the face more than the eye. Blurry vision may be a temporary symptom, but it’s a good idea to get a black eye checked out by an optometrist in any case, because sometimes there is accompanying damage to the eye which could impact vision.

How Does One Prevent Sports-Related Eye Injuries?

One of the most important things one can do in order to prevent eye injuries is to wear protective eyewear. In fact, wearing eye protection should be part of any athlete’s routine, and should be prioritized just like wearing shin guards or a helmet. 

Below are a few tips to prevent sports-related eye injuries: 

  • Wear safety goggles (with polycarbonate lenses) for racquet sports or basketball. For the best possible protection, the eye guard or sports protective eyewear should be labeled “ASTM F803 approved” – which means it is performance tested.
  • Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for baseball.
  • If you wear prescription eyewear, speak with Dr. Richard Sills about fitting you for prescription protective eyewear.
  • Sports eye protection should be comfortably padded along the brow and bridge of the nose, to prevent the eye guards from cutting into the skin.
  • Try on protective eyewear to assess whether it’s the right fit and size for you and adjust the straps as needed. For athletic children who are still growing, make sure that last-year’s pair still fits before the new sports season begins. Consult Dr. Richard Sills to determine whether the comfort and safety levels are adequate. 
  • Keep in mind that regular glasses don’t provide nearly enough eye protection when playing sports. 

For athletes, whether amateur or pro, there is so much more at stake than just losing the game. Fortunately, by wearing high-quality protective eyewear, you can prevent 90% of all sports-related eye injuries. 

Speak with Dr. Richard Sills at Dr. Sills and Associates about getting the right sports-related protective eyewear to ensure healthy eyes and clear vision. Our eye care clinic serves patients from Fort Myers and the surrounding areas. 

Sports and Specialty Eyewear Fitting

sports male cyclist roadbike wearing sunglasses in Fort Myers, FL

If you are serious about your sport or require specialty eyewear for your job or hobby, it’s worth scheduling a specialty eyewear fitting with your eye doctor. In addition to safety and eye protection, top athletic and occupational performance requires optimal visual acuity as well as a number of other visual functions such as peripheral vision, depth perception and hand-eye coordination. Sometimes color vision, eye tracking, night vision and light adaptation are also critical to performance. Your eye doctor will be able to do a full assessment of your vision while understanding your personal vision needs in order to recommend the best possible eyewear solution for you.

A standard comprehensive eye exam will not usually test for some of the additional visual and perceptual skills you need for serious sports or work environments. Your eye doctor will need to know the details about the skills required and conditions you face, in order to assess the best performance eyewear for your needs.

Learn about Presbyopia Diagnosis and Treatment.

Contacts & Glasses that Enhance Performance

Every sports activity requires a different skill set for success, yet all sports share a critical need for good vision. Geraint Griffiths, a British optometrist, devised a study to determine the effects of visual acuity on sports performance. This study distributed special vision-blurring goggles to Wimbledon tennis players and UK national clay pigeon shooters. Their performance was studied while the goggles were worn. Even though the goggles only blurred their vision a bit, the marksmen and tennis players showed a 25% decrease in accomplishment. This study demonstrated clearly that vision and sports achievement are inextricably linked.

Visual clarity isn’t the only benefit provided by sports eyewear. There are a number of additional eyewear features that boost athletic performance and enhance eye safety.

Protect Your Eyes from Impact-Related Injuries

As reported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, over 42,000 sports-related eye injuries occur in the United States each year. Approximately 43% of those injuries happen to children under the age of 15. The majority of these injuries can be prevented with protective eyewear, such as safety goggles with polycarbonate lenses.

Regular eyeglasses are designed for daily wear, and they aren’t resilient enough to handle the rough and tumble wear needed for sports. They also provide inadequate protection for your eyes. Contact lenses offer zero protection from sports-related eye injuries. In contrast, sports eyewear is constructed to be highly impact-resistant, thereby granting superior protection for your eyes and removing anxiety about potential eye injuries. Able to withstand the hit of a ball traveling at up to 90 miles per hour, polycarbonate lenses are about 10 times more impact-resistant than regular lenses.

Safety eyeglasses are advised for every activity that has the potential for injuries to the eye. Be aware that the following land sports run a higher risk to eyes: softball, baseball, hockey, football, basketball, handball, squash, racquetball, tennis, volleyball, soccer and lacrosse. In water, all swimming and pool sports require specialized eye gear. Paintball players should also make safety eyewear an essential part of their game.

A Barrier against UV Rays

Harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation can be just as damaging to your eyes as other injuries. A number of eye diseases, such as ocular tumors, macular degeneration, and cataracts, have been associated with exposure to UV rays. Photokeratitis, which refers to sunburn on your eye, is another hazard. This painful condition can cause long-term corneal damage.

Dangerous UV rays are more potent at higher altitudes and also bounce off snow or outdoor water, which increases exposure. It is imperative for skiers and anyone who enjoys outdoor water sports to wear sports sunglasses or tinted goggles that block 100% of the sun’s UV rays.

Some types of contact lenses provide UV protection, yet they only cover the central part of your eye. For this reason, sunglasses that block UV rays should still be worn, preferably in a wraparound style that also covers the delicate tissues surrounding your eyes. Hats with a wide brim will upgrade your protection by further reducing facial exposure to UV rays.

Enhance Your Game with Colored Lenses

Special tinted eyewear may add a winning edge to your game. Depending upon the lighting conditions, it’s not always simple to “keep your eye on the ball”. Hunters favor shooting glasses with amber tinted lenses, which highlight the contrast of birds flying against an overcast, dim sky. Golfers tend to gain the largest benefit from green tinted lenses.

A wide range of specialized tints for specific indoor and outdoor sports are available. These lenses can improve visibility and contrast in a diversity of environments. Ask your eye doctor or optician for more information about which lenses can help raise your scores.

Don’t Let Light Get in the Way

Reflective surfaces, such as a flat body of water, a sandy beach or even light-colored pavement, can disturb your vision with glare. Polarized sunglasses are one effective way to resolve this problem.

Another glare reducer is to add and anti-glare (AG) component to your lenses. At night, sports eyewear with anti-glare will diminish lens reflections when playing under bright lights or spotlights. It’s a good idea to apply anti-glare to the back surface of sport sunglasses in order to decrease the glare that bounces into your eyesight when sunlight hits the back of your lenses.

You can control the light that enters your eye by wearing photochromic lenses. These clear lenses transition automatically into dark lenses upon exposure to UV rays. They also offer 100% UV protection, and return quickly to their former clear state when you go indoors.

Contacts Provide Comfortable and Convenient Vision

Many advantages come along with wearing contact lenses for sports, even if you normally wear eyeglasses on a daily basis:

  • Unobstructed peripheral vision
  • Natural-appearing vision, with no changes in image sizes
  • No fogging lenses
  • Non-slip when perspiring

The best contact lens choice for sports is soft one-day disposables. There’s no need to clean them and you can toss them in the garbage at the end of the day. The flexible, oxygen-permeable material of one-day soft lenses also requires very little adaptation. They can be inserted easily and worn comfortably for a full day of physical activity.

Although contact lenses offer high convenience and comfort, there are still a number of disadvantages with wearing contacts for sports. No protection against eye injury is provided and they don’t offer sufficient UV protection. For ultimate performance and safety, you need to wear quality protective eyewear or sunglasses over your lenses.

Safety and Sports Glasses

Nowadays, sports eyewear tells the world that you are a serious player. It doesn’t matter whether you bat in Little League or skate with the pros, eye gear for sports offers a long list of benefits.

Protective eyewear, such as specialized goggles and wraparound frames with polycarbonate lenses, helps to reduce or eliminate your risk of eye damage. An added bonus is that performance is often enhanced, due to the high quality vision provided from eyewear made for wearing on the playing field.

Eye gear for sports is not merely recommended, but now mandated by many clubs. Members are required to wear proper protective eyewear in order to participate in activities. Once upon a time, kids used to cringe at the concept of wearing goggles, but just like bike helmets have become the norm – sports goggles are now accepted as part of the uniform and regarded as ultra-cool.

Protect Your Eyes from Fast and Furious Sports Action

If you’re still unconvinced about your need to wear protective eyewear for sports, take a look at these scary statistics:

  • Hospital emergency rooms treat 40,000 eye injuries annually, which are sports-related
  • Tennis and badminton are played with objects that zoom at 60 mile per hour or faster. With racquetball, the ball can whizz by at 60 to 200 miles per hours.
  • Activities such as racquetball involve racquets that swing at lightning speed in a confined space where crashes are inevitable.
  • Many sports are filled with pokes and jabs from elbows or fingers. Even basketball is associated with a high incidence of injuries to the eye.

Up Your Performance with Sports Eyewear

Until recently, people with mild to moderate vision correction used to play their games without wearing eyeglasses or contacts. Yet top performance in any sport is dependent upon sharp vision. Eye gear and goggles for sports allow you to compete at your best, with 20/20 eyesight.

Key Features of Sports Glasses

Sports eyewear does not share the same characteristics as regular eyeglasses, sunglasses or industrial safety glasses. Crafted in a variety of shapes, sports eye gear is specialized to suit the specific needs of each respective sport. Many types of eyewear are even designed to fit into helmets worn when playing football, baseball or hockey.

Protective lenses are generally made from polycarbonate, a durable and impact-resistant material that boasts full UV protection for outdoor action. Polycarbonate lenses are also scratch-resistant, which is a valuable feature for many rough sports.

The frames are typically designed from highly-impact resistant plastic or polycarbonate, and they are coated with rubber padding at every point that connects with your face. Some frame styles are contoured to wrap around your face, which provides secure coverage for activities such as hang-gliding, sailing and biking. Non-prescription wraparound shapes are useful for contact lens wearers, as they block your eyes from dust or wind.

Classic handball goggles used to be fashioned as plain goggles with small openings instead of lenses. That style was abandoned once it was realized that the high speed of handballs actually compressed the balls enough to penetrate through the goggle opening and seriously damage the orbital bones around your eye. Modern and effective goggles for handball and racquetball include polycarbonate lenses that protect your eyes.

Importance of a Good Fit

There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to sports goggles. Proper sizing is critical for top-notch function. For kids, many parents may be tempted to purchase larger goggles so that they’ll be long-lasting with room to grow. Yet if the frames are truly oversized, they won’t protect the child’s eyes adequately. Impact or blows to the face or head won’t be cushioned properly.

On the flipside, wearing sports goggles that are too small is just as hazardous. Not only will the child be constantly tempted to take them off due to discomfort, but the eyewear will also disturb peripheral vision. Without a good view of all that’s happening around your child, sports performance will be compromised. Hits from unseen sources on the sidelines are another risk factor.

The fit of sports goggles should be reassessed each year. The eyewear should still feel comfortable and provide proper eye protection. The padding on the interior of the goggles must rest flush with your or your child’s face, and eyes should be centered in the lens zone.