Skip to main content
  • Don’t Let Sports Eye Injuries Take You Out of the Game

    Amid rash of sidelining ocular injuries in professional and college basketball, American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages athletes to wear eye protection

    As basketball fans around the country focus their attention on the excitement of the Final Four and the NBA playoffs, ophthalmologists are reminding the public of the risk sports can pose to the eyes. In support of Sports Eye Safety Month this April, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds athletes everywhere that the great majority of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided by simply wearing the proper protection.

    Two basketball players face offEach year, an estimated 100,000 people are hurt by sports-related eye injuries.[1] About 13,500 of these injuries result in permanent vision loss.[2] Basketball is one of the sports in which eye injuries most commonly occur,[3] with an estimated 6,000 basketball-related eye injuries happening each year.[4] Ocular injuries have recently sidelined a notable number of basketball players, including Dallas Mavericks point guard Rajon Rondo, who sustained an orbital fracture, and Cleveland Cavalier power forward Kevin Love, who suffered a corneal abrasion. A flurry of eye poking incidents also occurred in college basketball this season.

    Ophthalmologists – the medical doctors who treat these injuries – point out that 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear.[5] The Academy’s EyeSmart® public education program also provides athletes with the following tips:

    • Athletes should wear sports eye protection that meets requirements set by the appropriate certification or standards organization.
    • Children should be particularly diligent about wearing eye protection since one-third of sports related eye injuries happen in this age group.[6]
    • Eye protection should be replaced when damaged or yellowed with age, as they may have become weakened and are no longer protective.
    • For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. For baseball, ice hockey and men’s lacrosse, wear a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield – even if the league does not officially require it.
    • Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear, as contacts offer no protection and glasses are not sufficient protection since lenses may shatter when hit by a projectile.
    • To preserve the vision they have left, all functionally one-eyed athletes should wear appropriate eye protection for all sports. They should also wear sport goggles that conform to the requirements of ASTM F803 in addition to a facemask or helmet with eye protector/shield, which are required for sports such as football and lacrosse. They should not, however, participate in boxing or full-contact martial arts because of the high risk of blinding eye injuries.

    “Whether you’re a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, to protect your eyes while playing sports is to protect your future,” said Philip R. Rizzuto, M.D., ophthalmologist and secretary of communications for the Academy. “The recent spate of eye injuries in basketball reminds us that these injuries cannot just take you out of the game, but could also lead to life-long consequences. Wearing eye protection is a smart move for any athlete.”

    For more sight-saving tips, visit EyeSmart.

    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, serving more than 32,000 members worldwide. The Academy's mission is to advance the lifelong learning and professional interests of ophthalmologists to ensure that the public can obtain the best possible eye care. For more information, visit

    The Academy is also a leading provider of eye care information to the public. The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit EyeSmart or OjosSanos to learn more.


    [1] U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Sports and Recreational Eye Injuries, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2000

    [2] Berman, P. (2006). Why do we need to decrease sports-related eye injuries? PowerPoint presentation at the Sports Eye Injury Meeting, June 1-2, Bethesda, MD.

    [3] Eye Injuries in Sports (American Family Physician, April 1, 2003,

    [4] New Data Shows Basketball, Water Sports as Leading Causes of Sports-related Eye Injuries (Prevent Blindness, September 4, 2013,

    [5] Harrison, et al. Eye injuries in the youth athlete: a case-based approach. Sports Medicine, 2002. 31(1) 33-40.

    [6] Vinger, P.F. (1990). Prevention of sports injuries. Journal of Ophthalmic Nursing & Technology, 9(5), 210-214.