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About sports-related eye injuries

Eye injuries are a leading cause of vision loss, and prevention is the best treatment. While some injuries may heal without permanent damage, many result in irreversible visual loss.

  • Each year, more than 40,000 sports-related eye injuries are reported.
  • Injuries can be inflicted on the eyeball or the eye socket.
  • Up to 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented by protective eyewear.

How does the eye get injured during sports?

The majority of sports-related eye injuries are due to blunt trauma. The severity and type of injury depends on the size, speed, and hardness of the object hitting the eye.

  • An object smaller than the opening of the eye socket places pressure directly on the eyeball.
  • An object bigger than the opening of the eye socket may fracture the bones of the eye socket as well.
  • Eye socket fractures can cause asymmetry in the appearance of the eyes.
  • The muscles responsible for moving the eye may become trapped in the fracture, which can cause a person to have difficulty when looking up or down, or double vision because the eyes are misaligned.
  • Blunt trauma can also lead to a black eye, internal bleeding, inflammation, cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, or rupture of the eyeball.

Penetrating injuries are not as common as blunt injuries, but can be just as detrimental.

  • They can be caused by a finger, eyeglass breakage, or any sharp object poking the eye.
  • Injuries can range from a scratch on the front of the eye (corneal abrasion) to lacerations of the eyelid or eyeball.

How can I prevent my child from getting a sports eye injury?

Many people believe that regular eyeglasses or even contact lenses worn during sports will protect their eyes.

  • The lenses of regular eyeglasses can break upon impact, causing a penetrating injury.
  • Contact lenses do nothing to protect the eyes.

Each sport has a specific type of recommended protective eyewear, but all sports goggles should be made with polycarbonate lenses.

  • Polycarbonate is a high-impact resistant plastic that offers ultraviolet protection and can be made in prescription or non-prescription lenses.
  • These lenses are 10 times more impact resistant than other plastics.
  • In comparison, regular eyeglasses have only 5 percent of the impact resistance of polycarbonate lenses.
  • Your eye doctor can recommend the eyewear that is appropriate for your sport.

It can be difficult to convince athletes, especially teenagers, to wear the recommended protective eyewear. Children and teenagers have a high rate of sports-related eye injuries because of their involvement in a wide variety of athletics and their tendency to play aggressively.

It is important for pediatricians, school officials, coaches, and parents to convey the importance of protective eyewear.

Sports Eye Injuries | Diagnosis & Treatments

How do we treat sports eye injuries?

The treatment and visual outcome of the injury depends on which parts of the eye are injured.

  • Mild injuries can be treated with medication or surgery.
  • Some injuries are mild enough that vision will not be affected. Other injuries are so severe they result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

How Boston Children's approaches sports eye injuries

Depending on the severity of your child's eye injury, our doctors can treat the injury with either medication or surgery. But sadly, certain injuries can still lead to permanent loss of vision. Boston Children's ophthalmologists are committed to making sure you and your child can prevent these injuries in the first place.

Sports Eye Injuries | Programs & Services