Keep Your Eyes Safe During Sports

3 min read  |  October 13, 2023  | 

With soccer’s rise in popularity, the Bascom Palmer Institute would like to remind you that many sports, including soccer, can pose a risk to your eye health. The good news is that almost every sport has simple options to keep your eyes and vision safe and healthy.

“Sports are a common cause of eye injuries, accounting for over 40,000 emergency department visits per year in the United States,” says Harry Flynn, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “With its increasing popularity, soccer has become a common cause of eye injury. Eye injury in soccer occurs due to deformation of the soccer ball onto the eyeball after an initial impact with the bones surrounding the eye.”

How to protect yourself

Luckily, modern sports equipment offers a whole host of ways that kids and adults alike can protect themselves on the field of play. When it comes to soccer, for example, people often think of sports goggles only as an alternative to glasses for those with vision impairment. However, Landon Rohowetz, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the Bascom Palmer, says sports goggles are a great way to protect yourself, as well.

“At Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, we frequently care for patients with soccer-related eye injuries,” he says. “We recommend the consideration of eye protection in those with a history of eye disease or prior trauma. Protective goggles are available and could substitute for glasses in those who require them.”

Of course, soccer is far from the only sport that can pose a risk to the eyes.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, basketball may be the leading cause of eye injuries, followed by sports like baseball, softball, rifle sports, racquetball and hockey. The growing sport of pickleball is another cause for concern, says Dr. Flynn. “Direct impact with a pickleball has been reported to cause retinal detachment,” he says.

For each sport, you should consider the eyes in your safety checklist and review the equipment that is available for that sport to protect them. For example, hockey, baseball, softball and many other sports now feature helmets with protective shields to keep the eyes safe from flying pucks, balls (or fingers, for that matter). Prevent Blindness recommends looking for sports protective eyewear that is labeled as ASTM F803 approved. This is your assurance that the eyewear passes the highest standards to keep you safe while competing.

If any injury to the eye does occur during practice or competition, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

“If contact with the eye occurs, we recommend that the injured individual seek professional eye consultation, as damage may be present even in the absence of any perceived symptoms.”

Finally, Dr. Rohowetz adds that other symptoms are a clear sign that you should see an ophthalmologist, even if they don’t occur as the result of a direct impact to the eye. “Warning signs include flashes, floaters, decreased vision, eye pain and redness,” he says. “If patients experience these symptoms, they should seek urgent ophthalmic evaluation, as they may be signs of a vision-threatening ocular injury.”

Wyatt Myers is a contributor for Uhealth’s news service.

  1. Interview with Harry Flynn, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
  2. Interview with Landon Rohowetz, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
  3. Sports Eye Safety, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2021,
  4. Your Sight: Preventing Eye Injuries: Sports Eye Safety, Prevent Blindness, 2023,

Tags: Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Dr. Harry Flynn, eye care in Miami, protective eye gear

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