Sports can play a vital role in a child’s physical, mental, and social well-being. Engaging in recreational activities allows children to develop physical skills, cardiovascular endurance, and muscle strength. 

Unfortunately, sports can also have a downside—causing injuries. One particular injury that can endanger your child’s quality of life is a sports-related eye injury.

According to the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO), 30,000 children seek hospital emergency room treatment for sports-related eye injuries every year. It is said that such injuries mainly occur in children aged 10 to 17 years old. 

Although not life-threatening, sports-related eye injuries can cause significant damage to the eye or eye socket, causing vision loss or impairment. Luckily, parents and guardians can easily prevent these injuries by learning proper eye safety practices during recreational activities.

What are the most common eye injuries in sports?

Eye injuries can happen anytime and anywhere. However, your child is more at risk of sustaining an eye injury during a sports activity. In fact, research suggests that most pediatric eye injuries are caused by sports, particularly basketball, softball, football, and baseball.

There are many ways for the eye to get injured during a recreational activity. A hard and speeding object can hit the eye, or another player may accidentally poke or scratch them. These traumas can result in either of these three common eye injuries.

Corneal abrasion

Corneal abrasion is the most common sports-related eye injury in children, with a prevalence of 27.1%. It occurs when the cornea一the protective window of the eye一sustains a scrape, scratch, or cut on its surface. It can happen when a finger or an object pokes the eye or when dirt, dust, or other small particles gets trapped underneath. 

Corneal abrasions can immediately cause eye irritation and pain. Your child may also experience tearing, redness, and blurred vision. Most injuries heal on their own but severe ones need the help of a medical doctor to prevent further complications, such as infection or long-term vision impairment. 

Blunt trauma

A blunt trauma happens when something or someone hits the eye with full force. The extent and severity of the damage will depend on the size, speed, hardness, and force of the object. Some examples of eye injuries caused by blunt trauma include:

  • Black eye or hyphema 
  • Orbital blowout fracture
  • Orbital and lid contusions
  • Iris injury
  • Ruptured globe
  • Traumatic iritis
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage
  • Retinal hemorrhage
  • Vitreous hemorrhage
  • Retinal tears
  • Retinal detachment

Blunt trauma injuries can cause serious damage to the eye and its structures. Most of it eventually leads to vision loss and impairment if left unaddressed. So, it’s important to seek an ophthalmologist immediately, even if the injury appears mild at first glance.

Penetrating objects

A penetrating injury occurs when an object or moving projectile penetrates or cuts the inside of the eye. It may happen when another player’s finger scratches your child’s eye, or their prescription glasses break and cut the eye.

Penetrating injuries are less common than other eye injuries but still equally as dangerous as they can lead to partial or complete blindness. Generally, penetrating objects can cause varying degrees of injuries to the eye一it can range from mild abrasions to severe bleeding and lacerations. 

How to prevent sports-related eye injuries in children

Fortunately, it’s entirely possible for children to play their favorite sport without getting injured. Parents and guardians just need to take the right preventive measures to make the playing field safe for their little ones.

Wear the proper protective equipment

According to the AAO, 9 out of 10 pediatric sports-related eye injuries can be prevented using the proper protective eyewear and equipment. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to invest in the correct type of safety eyewear for your child, depending on their chosen sport.

Most protective eyewear used in sports is made out of ultra-strong polycarbonate material that’s both impact and ultraviolet-ray-resistant. Some examples of eye protection and other protective equipment that can prevent eye injuries include:

  • Sports or safety goggles
  • Faceguards
  • Helmets
  • Sports-specific glass or shield made of polycarbonate

High-risk sports that may require the use of protective eyewear and equipment include basketball, baseball, softball, and hockey.

Regular or prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses are not protective eyewear. They can actually be the cause of an injury during a forceful impact or penetrating injury.  

Inspect for potential hazards

Stray objects in the court or field can often cause an injury. This includes low-hanging branches, big stones, sticks, and other debris. So, before a game, parents and coaches should check the area for potential eye hazards to make recreational activities extra safe for the children. 

Check their equipment

Besides inspecting the field, it’s also important to check each player’s equipment for any breaks or defects. These equipment flaws increase the risk for eye injury and other accidents to occur, may it be to your child or other players in the game.

Educate the child to follow the rules of the game

Parents, guardians, and coaches should ensure that all players know the rules and safety precautions of their chosen sport. For example, wearing the proper gear or prohibiting horseplay inside the court or activity area.

Educating them about safety rules and the importance of following them can significantly lessen the risk of eye injuries.

Know what to do if an injury occurs

Prevention is always better than cure. However, it doesn’t hurt to be informed and ready in case of an accident. Some of the most important things you should remember include the following:

  • For a forceful hit or impact in the eye – gently apply an ice pack on the affected area, then seek medical attention.
  • For eye scratches – do not rub or touch the eye using any object. You can try to relieve irritation by rinsing with clean water or blinking. Seek a medical doctor if the pain does not heal on its own.
  • For small particles getting inside the eye – do not rub the affected eye. Let the eye blink and tear up, as this will naturally flush out the foreign particle. You can also rinse the eye with clean water or saline solution.
  • For penetrating objects – do not attempt to remove the object or apply anything to the affected eye. Do not rub, touch, or apply any pressure to it. Keep the child calm as you immediately seek emergency care. 

pediatric ophthalmologist in NJ

Where to find the best pediatric ophthalmologist in NJ?

Pediatric Eye Associates provides comprehensive eye care and treatment services to children of all ages. We pride ourselves on forming connections with your entire family to build trust with your child as they grow older.

Get in touch with a pediatric eye doctor now by contacting us at 973-422-1230.


The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.