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We all know that playing sports is fun and good for your health. What is not commonly known is that there are a growing number of athletes that suffer from preventable eye injuries every year. Eye injuries occur more frequently in the summer months, when people are likely to be outside playing recreational sports — often without protective equipment.

Types of eye injuries:

  1. Blunt – or impact injuries result from a direct blow to the eye. Usually from sporting equipment, ball, racket, or stick and sometimes from another player.
  2. Penetrating – or piercing injuries result from objects cutting into the eye. Sharp objects like glass, debris or fingernails. These types of injuries need to be treated immediately and require medical attention.
  3. Radiation – injuries are caused by intense sunlight and are most common in snow and water sports. Goggles or sport sunglasses with SPF protection will do well to protect your eyes from this injury.

Sports are a risky business!

Lower-risk: running, track, swimming, cycling and gymnastics
Higher-risk: baseball, racquetball, badminton, football, tennis, squash, lacrosse, basketball, soft ball, water polo, hockey and rugby
Very high-risk: martial arts, boxing, and wrestling

How do I know if an eye injury requires medical attention

Quite often eye injuries can be treated at home, but if you are in any doubt, don’t hesitate to contact your family physician or optometrist. Penetrating or piercing eye injuries will always require immediate medical attention. Signs that may indicate serious injury – decrease or loss of vision, flashes of light, a dark curtain or veil across one part of your eye (indication of retinal detachment), floaters (shadows or dark objects float across your visual field), light sensitivity, pain with eye movement, red eye, and double vision.


  • Wear protective eyewear or a face shield and helmet combination
  • Ensure eyewear is made of polycarbonate
  • Frames must be sturdy and contain a posterior rim so that the lens can’t dislodge backward into your eye
  • Eyewear should have SPF protection
  • Best option is to obtain protective eyewear from an optometrist or optician. These lenses can be prescription or non-prescription depending on your needs.

The good news is that eye injuries can be easily prevented if you take the proper precautions. Parents and athletes participating in sports that have a high risk of eye injuries should ensure that any purchase of protective gear meets the required standards of their sport.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Curreri A, Corrales G. Eye Trauma in Boxing. Clinics In Sports Medicine. October 2009;28(4):591-607. 
2. Eime R, Owen N, Finch C. Protective Eyewear Promotion: Applying Principles of Behaviour Change in the Design of a Squash Injury Prevention Programme. Sports Medicine. 2004;34(10):629-638.
3. Jones J. Protecting Your Eyes During Sports. Hughston Health Alert. Winter2011 2011;23(1):6.
4. Leivo T, Puusaari I, Mäkitie T. Sports-related eye injuries: floorball endangers the eyes of young players. Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports. October 2007;17(5):556-563. 
5. Nelson B, Huchun A, Tuzman J. FACIAL INJURIES IN SPORTS. Sports Medicine Update. January 2007;:2-5.
6. Pujalte G. Eye Injuries in Sports. Athletic Therapy Today. September 2010;15(5):14-18.
7. Wang R. Blunt Injury to the Eye. Black Belt. March 2013;51(2):38.
8. Zagelbaum B. Sports-related eye trauma. Managing common injuries. Physician & Sportsmedicine. September 1993;21(9):25-28;31-32;35-37;40;42.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.