Madness: Basketball is the Leading Cause of Eye Injuries
Written By: Susanne Medeiros
Apr. 19, 2019
Current research shows that basketball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in the United States. Most of these injuries could have been prevented with one, simple step — wearing protective eyewear.
A 2018 study in the journal Pediatrics found that basketball caused almost 16% of eye injuries in kids between 1990 and 2012. The second and third-most dangerous activities were baseball/softball and nonpowder gun use, such as airsoft rifles and pellet guns. The through-line is clear: sports eye injuries should be a real concern, and protective eyewear is worth it.
But real-life examples of preventable eye injuries are even more compelling than the statistics:
- A collision on the court caused a retinal detachment for high school basketball player Angellia Lilomaiava. She got poked in the eye as she went up for a two-foot shot during a basketball tournament. As she made her way back to the bench, she had no idea she just sustained an NBA-level injury that could potentially take her out of the game forever. Watch Angellia's story below.
- During the 2018 NBA Finals, superstar LeBron James was inadvertently poked in the eye by an opponent. It left his eye bloodshot; he had what's known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage. The eye’s conjunctiva contains a lot of tiny blood vessels that can break. If they break, blood leaks leaving the eye red.
- In January 2017, former Virginia basketball player Akil Mitchell went up for a rebound and was poked in the eye. The poke dislodged his left eye from its socket. A gruesome injury. But it wasn’t the first time it occurred. In 2006, Allen Ray’s eye popped out of his socket while playing a college basketball game for Villanova. Fortunately, for both players, their vision was saved by ophthalmologists.
Ophthalmologists — physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care — treat devastating eye injuries in athletes at every level of play, from high school standouts to NBA stars. The right protective eyewear is the best defense against eye injury, whether you’re a high schooler or an NBA star. Protective eyewear made with polycarbonate lenses is the best choice for basketball players, as well as for those who play racquet sports, soccer and field hockey. All athletes should wear sports eye protection that meets requirements set by appropriate organizations. Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear. Contacts offer no protection and glasses do not provide enough defense.