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Sports-related eye injuries: Learn how to minimize your risk

A baseball player pitching with spin on the ball. (motion blur on ball)Every 13 minutes, an E.R. in the United States treats a sports-related eye injury, according to The National Eye Institute (NEI). Sports-related eye injuries cost $175 to $200 million a year (NEI). These statistics prove that protecting the eyes is critical to sports performance and overall eye health.

According to the NEI, certain sports are classified as low risk, high risk, and very high risk of incurring eye injuries. High-risk sports include:

  • Baseball/Softball
  • Ice Hockey
  • Racquet Sports
  • Basketball
  • Fencing
  • Lacrosse
  • Paintball
  • Boxing

Although these sports include high risks for the eyes, there are ways to protect your eyes and continue playing. Regular eye exams and protective eyewear are ways to protect your eyesight and are strongly suggested by the (NEI).

Eye Exams

Regular eye exams are vital, but especially pre-season exams. Before the start of any sporting season, checking peripheral vision, depth perception, and visual acuity, among other tests, is essential. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), these qualities of eyesight not only help your game but also keep you safe.

Peripheral vision is pivotal when seeing objects that are not in front of you. If the eyes cannot see peripherally, the athlete is not able to see the hit coming their way or the impending injury.

Depth perception allows athletes to judge the distance between themselves and the ball, opponents, and teammates. Boundary lines, goals, and countless other essential aspects of the game is dependent on their depth perception.

Visual acuity determines an athlete’s ability to see how fast an object is going and what they need to do depending on the sport being played. This also plays a role in judging how fast you’re going as well as other players. Dynamic visual acuity is critical to nearly every sport.

Exams may detect pre-existing eye conditions in athletes, which can make athletes aware of what procedures they should follow.


Sun exposure causes damage that can prove irreparable. Simple sunglasses and prescription glasses are not the answer as they do not provide enough protection. Depending on the sport, polycarbonate lenses or “goggles” should be worn as well as protective masks. Polycarbonate is impact-resistant and scratch-resistant and protects the eyes from ultraviolet rays.

The NEI states that many sports-related eye injuries result in permanent vision loss. To keep playing and avoiding injury is something to seriously consider.