Tens of thousands of sports-related eye injuries happen every year, with most of them occurring in children. Basketball and baseball are responsible for most of these injuries, with water sports and racquet sports coming in not far behind. About 90% of these injuries are preventable, and those that do occur can be treated.

Types of Eye Injuries

There are three types of eye injuries that can occur in sports. The first is an impact injury, which is when someone is hit in or around their eye. These can cause bruising and swelling and often look worse than they are, but detached retinas and broken orbital bones can happen.

The second type of eye injury that can happen when playing a sport is a penetrating injury. This is caused when something actually cuts the eye, such as a piece of a broken pair of glasses or a finger that goes into the eye. Penetrating injuries are significantly more severe than impact injuries and often require immediate medical attention.

The third type of eye injury often seen in sports is a radiation injury. This is caused by exposure to the sun and is common in outdoor sports such as bicycling, swimming, or skiing. In the case of water or winter sports, sunlight can reflect off of water or snow and cause damage even if the person isn’t looking near the sun.

Preventing and Treating Eye Injuries

The good news about eye injuries is that almost all of them are preventable. Impact and penetrating injuries can be prevented with the proper safety equipment such as goggles and face masks, and radiation injuries can be prevented with shades or goggles that protect the eyes from UV radiation. Players who wear glasses can protect themselves with goggles or protective masks that can be worn over the glasses themselves.

Most eye injuries that occur require treatment if they are to heal. Impact injuries such as black eyes can be treated with a cold compress, but penetrating injuries should only be treated by a medical professional. Anybody who suffers an eye injury should take a break from their preferred sport until their doctor tells them it is safe to play again. Playing with an eye injury that is still healing could make the problem much worse.