When you think about being injured playing a sport, probably the first few things that come to your mind are a concussion from football or a twisted ankle from soccer. Both of these are certainly possible, and quite painful as well. This is far from the end of the list. What you may not realize, though, is that there are several sports that put you at an increased risk for eye injuries. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology tells us that nearly 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated in U.S. emergency rooms each year. 

Understanding Your Risk

Common types of eye injuries are blunt trauma and penetrating injuries. Eye injuries can happen in almost any sport, but some sports are higher risk than others. When it comes to eye injuries, sports can be classified as low risk, high risk, and very high risk. Broken down further, these are:

  • Low-risk sports do not use a ball, puck, stick, bat, or racquet. They have no body contact. These sports include running, cycling, track and field, swimming, rollerblading, and gymnastics.
  • High-risk sports use a ball, puck, bat, stick, or racquet, and have some form of body contact. A few high-risk sports include baseball, basketball, hockey, football, lacrosse, tennis, and water polo.
  • Very-high-risk sports do not use eye protectors. They also involve a lot of physical contact, especially around the face and eyes. Some very-high-risk sports are boxing, wrestling, and contact martial arts like karate.

Common Sports-Related Eye Injuries

Your eyes are incredibly important to your health and wellbeing, yet often left exposed during sports. It’s no wonder they too often get poked or otherwise injured! The most-often-seen eye injuries come from these sports:

#1 Basketball

Basketball causes most sports eye injuries in the U.S. According to a 2018 study in the journal Pediatrics, basketball caused almost 16% of eye injuries in kids between 1990 and 2012. This is because it is full-contact, meaning hands and fingers are often in an opponent’s face, yet no eye protection is worn. One minute you have the ball and a defender is coming your way and the next- you’re on a trip to the Reno ophthalmologist!

#2 Baseball and Softball

The same study in the journal Pediatrics also found that baseball and softball came in second place. For young kids, it’s actually number one. According to the National Eye Institute, baseball is a leading cause of eye injuries among children 14 years old and younger who play sports in the U.S. With one swing of the bat, a very hard, very fast ball could be heading straight for someone’s face!

Blunt trauma occurs when something hits you in the eye. It causes most sports-related eye injuries. A few serious examples are an orbital blowout fracture (a broken bone under the eyeball) and a ruptured globe (broken eyeball). Potential eye injuries from baseball include:

  • Corneal abrasion
  • Orbital fracture
  • Hyphema, which can lead to glaucoma
  • Ruptured eyeball
  • Cataract
  • Detached retina

#3 Combat Sports 

Boxing and full-contact martial arts have been known to cause blinding eye injuries, which is why they are listed as very-high-risk sports. These combat sports pose an extreme risk of serious eye injuries. There is no satisfactory eye protection for boxing, although some experts say that thumbless gloves may reduce the number of boxing eye injuries.

Visit a Reno Ophthalmologist

If you or a young person in your life gets an eye injury from playing a sport, this isn’t something to ignore. As soon as the injury happens, make an appointment to see a Reno ophthalmologist. At Eye Care Professionals of Reno, our doctors will take great care to make sure the eye injury is one you heal and learn from. When in our office, please tell your doctor if you have any pre-existing eye problems or if you have a family history of retinal problems.