Eye trauma is a serious risk whether you’re an athlete or enjoy recreational sports. Approximately 40,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated in the emergency room each year, with a third of them resulting in permanent vision loss. Fortunately, 90% of these injuries are preventable with the right gear!

Closed Globe Injuries

There are a few main types of eye injuries. Closed globe injuries are most common and involve blunt trauma, such as getting hit by a ball or elbowed in the eye. Blunt trauma can result in:

  • Eye infection or irritation
  • Detached retina
  • Iridodialysis (tear of the colored iris)
  • Hyphema or other hemorrhages (bleeding in the eye)
  • Orbital fracture (bone fracture around the eyeball)
  • Globe rupture (rupture of the eyeball)
  • Contusion of the eye or eyelid (bruising or black eye)

Long-term complications of eye trauma include:

  • Uveitis (chronic eye inflammation)
  • Glaucoma (optic nerve damage)
  • Cataracts

Some sports that are often associated with closed globe injuries are:

  • Basketball
  • Baseball and softball
  • Racquetball
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Soccer
  • Water polo
  • Boxing
  • Martial arts
  • Wrestling

Women playing volleyball

Open Globe Injuries

Open globe injuries involve an object penetrating the eye. These injuries are relatively uncommon but can have mild to severe complications depending on how deeply or where the object enters the eye. Emergency medical attention is necessary in many cases.

Complications include:

  • Corneal abrasion (painful scratch on the front of the eye)
  • Eyelid lacerations (cut on the eyelid skin)
  • Endophthalmitis (serious eye infection)
  • Iris prolapse (colored part of the eye protruding through the area of open injury)
  • Detached retina
  • Impaled foreign body (object stuck in the eye)
  • Globe rupture (rupture of the eyeball)

Penetrating eye injuries can result from:

  • Fishing hooks
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Getting poked in the eye by a finger
  • Pellet guns, BB guns, and other projectiles

Radiation Injuries

Radiation injuries are related to sun exposure. They often occur after skiing, swimming, water skiing, or other related sports due to the sun’s ultraviolet rays reflecting off snow or water. Exposure to intense ultraviolet light can cause photokeratitis, similar to a sunburn on the skin. You may have photokeratitis if you experience these symptoms following sun exposure:

  • Eye pain or irritation
  • Light sensitivity
  • Decreased vision
  • Tearing
  • Redness of the eyes 
  • Eyelid redness and swelling

Preventing Eye Injuries During Sports

Remember, even activities that seem harmless can potentially cause eye injury. Anyone who participates in sports should consider eye protection, especially during contact or high-impact sports. Don’t forget about your kids—about 30% of eye injuries in children under age 16 are sports-related!

Here are some tips on protecting your eyes (and your children’s) when playing sports:

  • Don’t wear regular glasses. Most glasses aren’t designed to sustain high impact. If your glasses break or shatter while playing sports, you could sustain serious eye injuries.
  • Sports goggles are a better choice. Sports goggles are available with and without your eyeglass prescription. They come in various shapes and sizes, including ones designed for specific sports.
  • Polycarbonate lenses. Most sports goggles come with polycarbonate lenses, which are made of highly impact resistant plastic, provide ultraviolet protection, and include a scratch-resistant treatment.
  • Contact lenses are another option. If you require a prescription to see during sports, you can use contact lenses with nonprescription sports goggles. Some people prefer this option to maximize their peripheral vision.
  • Make sure sports goggles conform to safety standards. Any protective gear for sports must meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International standards. Here’s a guide on what type of eye protection is required for some of the most common sports.
  • Children need proper fitting gear. It might be tempting to buy adult sports goggles for kids or loan them your own pair, but you could be putting them at higher risk for eye injury. Make sure your kids use eye protection that fits them properly, so they don’t slip off while playing.
  • Don’t forget sun protection. Regular sunglasses don’t provide enough protection when you’re out on the slopes. Damaging ultraviolet rays can enter from the sides of your glasses. Ski goggles cover more of your face and protect from wind, snow, sun, and falls! Swim goggles also protect from physical injury and sun damage while in the water. Look for goggles that provide 100% ultraviolet protection.

Athlete training on Senaptec Sensory Station

Improve Your Sports Performance

Now that you know how to protect your eyes from injury, you can focus on other aspects of your game—like improving your performance! Of course, vision is a vital component of sports, but it’s more than just seeing clearly and wearing the correct prescription.

Performance vision therapy (or sports vision training) is a specialized field of optometry that can help you identify visual impairments and improve visual skills. In short, you can gain a competitive edge against your opponents!

Vision therapy provides several benefits:

  • Improve athletic safety
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Improve reaction time
  • Develop eye-body coordination
  • Enhance depth perception
  • Develop peripheral vision awareness
  • Improve eye tracking and focusing, particularly the ability to see moving objects
  • Help detect traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Address visual disorders resulting from TBI

Even if you have 20/20 vision, this type of training is still beneficial. If you want to hit the ball with greater accuracy or take your defensive moves to the next level, consider performance vision therapy. 

At Camen Eye Care Total Performance Vision clinic, we use the latest technology to give you the best vision therapy experience possible. For kids, this means a fun and immersive experience that will feel like they’re playing a video game!

Our Senaptec Sensory Station measures ten different visual parameters crucial for sports. Once the station identifies your strengths and opportunities, we customize the Sensory Station’s 15 training modules to challenge your senses and provide continuous improvement in your visual skills. 

We also use Strobe Sport training glasses to enhance your sensorimotor skills. These special lenses train your brain to sense and process stimuli faster, even with fewer visual cues. The result is seeing and reacting to the ball quicker and more efficiently. 

At our clinic, we use these tools and many more to help you become the best athlete you can be. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or trying out a new sport, performance vision therapy is suitable for patients of all ages. Please get in touch with Camen Eye Care to learn more about our Performance Vision clinic!