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Sports-Related Eye Injuries

September Is Sports Eye Safety Month!

Ocular sports trauma is among the leading causes of permanent vision loss in North America. Tens of thousands of people get treated for sports-related eye injuries a year, with the most common injuries occurring during water sports and basketball. Infections, corneal abrasions, eye socket fractures, and detached retinas are just a few of the typical cases eye doctors encounter on a regular basis.

Sports Eye Safety Month is sponsored by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) to remind people to protect their eyes when playing sports. Though young children are usually the most vulnerable to eye injuries, it should be noted that professional athletes can also suffer eye injuries while on the job. 

Eye accidents can happen in a split second – the effects can last a lifetime…

By wearing protective eyewear, you can safeguard your eyesight without compromising on your favorite sports activities. Athletes who wear contact lenses still need additional eye protection for relevant sports.

At Family Eyecare Center of Optometry, our eye doctor is experienced and trained to treat sports-induced eye injuries sustained by our active patients. Dr. Harold Ashcraft and our dedicated staff are committed to providing the most comprehensive eye care to help get you back on the field again. Furthermore, we provide consultations on a wide array of protective eyewear for all your sporting needs. 

What Eye Injuries Can Be Caused by Sports?

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion, also known as a scratched cornea, is the most common sports-related eye injury. When someone gets poked in the eye, the eye’s surface can get scratched. Symptoms may include acute pain and a gritty or foreign body sensation in the eyes, as well as redness, tearing, light sensitivity, headaches, blurry or decreased vision. Medical care includes prevention or treatment of infection, and pain management. If you suspect that you have suffered a corneal abrasion, make sure to see an eye doctor right away. 

Traumatic Iritis

Iritis is an inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye. The condition rapidly develops and typically affects only one eye. Symptoms include pain in the eye or brow region, blurred vision, a small or oddly-shaped pupil, and sensitivity to bright lights. 


Hyphema is among the more common sports-related eye injuries, with racquet sports, baseball and softball accounting for more than 50% of all hyphema injuries in athletics. 

A hyphema is a broken blood vessel inside the eye which causes blood to collect in the space between the cornea and iris, also known as the “anterior chamber”. Although the main symptom is blood in the eye, it can be accompanied by blurry or distorted vision, light sensitivity or eye pain.  

If you recognize the signs and symptoms of hyphema, make sure to seek immediate medical attention in order to avoid secondary complications. 

Angle recession

Angle recession can develop from an eye injury or bruising of the eye, caused by getting punched, elbowed, or hit with a ball. The trauma damages the fluid drainage system of the eye, which causes it to back up, increasing the pressure in the eye. In 20% of people with angle recession, this pressure can become so severe that it damages the optic nerve, and causes glaucoma (known as “angle-recession glaucoma”). 

You may not notice any symptoms at first, and it may take years before you experience any signs of vision loss. Therefore, it’s critical to visit the eye doctor as soon as possible for a complete eye exam and make sure that you follow-up with routine screenings. 

Retinal tear or detachment

Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina gets lifted or pulled away from its normal position at the back of the eye. If not treated immediately, retinal detachment can develop permanent vision loss.

Symptoms include seeing flashing lights, floaters or little black spots in your vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency and requires an eye doctor’s immediate attention – surgical intervention may be necessary.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage 

This happens when a blood vessel breaks on the white part of the eye. In addition to a sport-related injury, it can be induced by rubbing the eye, heavy lifting, sneezing or coughing. For those with subconjunctival hemorrhage, the eye appears intensely red – though this minor condition will often clear up within a couple weeks on its own without treatment.

Orbital Fracture 

This occurs when one or more of the bones around the eyeball break, often caused by a hard blow to the face – such as by a baseball or a fist. This is a major injury and should be assessed by an eye doctor, like Dr. Harold Ashcraft, along with X-Rays or CT scan imaging to help confirm the diagnosis.

Black Eye or Periorbital Hematoma

A “shiner” can occur when a blunt object such as a fist or ball strikes the eye-area of the face and causes bruising. Typically, this kind of injury affects the face more than the eye. Blurry vision may be a temporary symptom, but it’s a good idea to get a black eye checked out by an optometrist in any case, because sometimes there is accompanying damage to the eye which could impact vision.

How Does One Prevent Sports-Related Eye Injuries?

One of the most important things one can do in order to prevent eye injuries is to wear protective eyewear. In fact, wearing eye protection should be part of any athlete’s routine, and should be prioritized just like wearing shin guards or a helmet. 

Below are a few tips to prevent sports-related eye injuries: 

  • Wear safety goggles (with polycarbonate lenses) for racquet sports or basketball. For the best possible protection, the eye guard or sports protective eyewear should be labeled “ASTM F803 approved” – which means it is performance tested.
  • Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for baseball.
  • If you wear prescription eyewear, speak with Dr. Harold Ashcraft about fitting you for prescription protective eyewear.
  • Sports eye protection should be comfortably padded along the brow and bridge of the nose, to prevent the eye guards from cutting into the skin.
  • Try on protective eyewear to assess whether it’s the right fit and size for you and adjust the straps as needed. For athletic children who are still growing, make sure that last-year’s pair still fits before the new sports season begins. Consult Dr. Harold Ashcraft to determine whether the comfort and safety levels are adequate. 
  • Keep in mind that regular glasses don’t provide nearly enough eye protection when playing sports. 

For athletes, whether amateur or pro, there is so much more at stake than just losing the game. Fortunately, by wearing high-quality protective eyewear, you can prevent 90% of all sports-related eye injuries. 

Speak with Dr. Harold Ashcraft at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry about getting the right sports-related protective eyewear to ensure healthy eyes and clear vision. Our eye care clinic serves patients from Westchester, Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. 

The Red Eye Secret Visine Doesn’t Want You To Know


Gets the red out! 10 hours of comfort! Protects and soothes irritated eyes! Fast acting!

These are the promises made by over-the-counter (OTC) red eye relief products like Visine, Clear Eyes, and Murine. They advertise themselves as the solution to your red eye problems. Some of you are believers and keep your Visine close at all times.

I have some news for you and you might not like it. Stop. Yes, stop now for your own sake. To better understand, read Bryan’s experience below. This was in a posting to

A few years ago, I started using Visine/Clear Eyes/Opcon A to treat minor eye redness. I did not realize the harmful effects that these products had on your eyes, and I used them regularly for about 2-3 years. Now I am suffering from rebound hyperemia, or rebound effect. My eyes are bloodshot all the time unless I use these drops. Almost a month ago I stopped using the redness reliever drops cold turkey. Today, my eyes look a little better, but there are still red veins in my eyes. The red veins are still visible, but are not as red as they used to be. Is there any way to get rid of them completely? Or is there any way to get treatment to help my eyes return to the way they were before I started using these drops?


Bryan is suffering the effects of overusing OTC red eye relief drops. His experience is not unique, as we see patients coming into our office with similar problems. The warning labels for these products include that overuse can cause more eye redness, but that warning is often overlooked.

How Visine is Hurting, Not Helping, Your Red Eye

Visine and similar drops contain drugs called vasoconstrictors, which work by shrinking the red blood vessels in the white part of the eye. The smaller the blood vessels, the less red your eyes will appear. Look on the ingredients list and you will often recognize these drugs as terahydrozoline or naphazoline. You may look and feel on top of the world for a little while after using these drops, but frequent use is unsafe and can lead to more serious problems.

Reduced ocular blood flow

Your eye’s blood vessels help transport oxygen and important nutrients throughout the structures of your eye. Constantly shrinking these vessels means your eyes do not get all the oxygen or nutrients it needs, thus compromising your eye health.

Rebound hyperemia

Vasoconstrictors temporarily reduce the size of the blood vessels in your eye. After the drug wears off, your blood vessels will revert back to their original size. However, after prolonged use those blood vessels can permanently enlarge, causing your red eye to look even worse. This is called rebound hyperemia, or rebound effect. Your eyes can become addicted to these drops. It is a vicious cycle of using your drops, worsening your red eye symptoms, and repeat.

“Eye Whitening Eye Drops”–Are They Safe to Use? By Brian Boxer Wachler, M.D.

The Real Cause of (And Solution to) Your Eye Redness

Red eye relief drops are not treating the cause of your eye redness, only temporarily managing the symptoms. The key to eliminating redness is to find out the real problem. This could be a number of things:

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Irritants like smoke or dust
  • Dry eye
  • Stress and/or lack of sleep
  • Certain medications

An eye exam with Dr. Ashcraft is necessary to identify the source of the problem and appropriate treatment.

Treatment options and recovery times will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how long you used the drops. For mild cases, artificial tears and prescription drops can aid in recovery time. For more severe circumstances, ocular steroids and other medical therapies may be an option.

So, what now? Your first step is to stop using the drops today. Throw them away! Your eyes will be red and uncomfortable, but you can place cool compresses over them to provide some relief. Next, call our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ashcraft. Save yourself time, money, and frustration by getting the proper treatment you need sooner rather than later. Your eyes will thank you!


Top image by Flickr user Pete used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped from original.

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