Types of Sports Related Eye Trauma


Eye injury risk is related to the particular type of sport you play.  Sports that use a ball, puck, bat or racquet and/or have close aggressive play with intentional or unintentional body contact and collision are at high risk for eye injuries.

Other high-risk sports for eye injuries are combative sports such as boxing, wrestling and martial arts. On the other end of the spectrum are low risk sports such as track and field, swimming, gymnastics, and cycling.

The most common type of sports-related eye injuries include, but are not limited to:

Blunt Trauma -  A baseball fielder misjudging a ball flying toward him/her, a tennis racquet’s backswing, or an inadvertent elbow to the face from an opponent on the soccer field – these sudden forceful impacts to the face are common examples of blunt trauma, the most common sports-related eye injury. The severity and type of injury depends on the size, speed, and hardness of the object hitting the eye.  While minor blunt injuries may cause only bleeding in the eyelids (aka a black eye), more severe impacts may cause a ruptured eyeball, a detached retina, or break bones near the eye, and may sometimes seriously damage important eye structures and/or lead to vision loss.

Corneal abrasions -  A scratch to the outer surface of the eye can occur when a small bit of debris such as dirt or sand blows into an athlete’s eyes (i.e., sliding head first into home plate).  In some sports, such as basketball where players are in close contact with each other, it is not uncommon to suffer a corneal abrasion from being poked in the eye by someone’s finger.

Penetrating Eye Injuries – A foreign object, such as shattered eyeglasses, can pierce the eye and cause permanent vision loss, depending on the depth of the penetration and location. Even if they do not break, the force of impact may cause the lenses or spectacles frame to contact the eye or surrounding area, causing injury. Penetrating injuries must be treated quickly in order to preserve vision.

Radiation Eye Injury – Prolonged exposure to the intense ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun may damage sensitive cells in the eyes, potentially affecting vision. The sun’s rays reflect off all surfaces (water, snow, ground), so year-round protection is important.  Your eyecare professional can recommend sport-appropriate UV-protective eyewear, such as ski goggles.

Soccer player heading the ball during a match


Professional athletes from the NBA, NFL, NHL and other sports leagues have a history of career-threatening injuries to the eyes. Here are 20 of the most infamous eye injuries in modern American sports, as presented by the American Academy of Ophthalmology


The International Sports Vision Association is committed to helping reduce the risk of traumatic vision and head-related injuries through education about protective devices and equipment.  This important health information has been made available thanks to an educational grant provided by  Zyloware Eyewear.  Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by ISVA.