Sports Eye Injuries

Every year, hospital emergency rooms treat nearly 40,000 victims of sports eye injuries. All professional and recreational athletes participating in eye-hazardous sports need to wear eye protection. To help prevent sports eye injuries, protective polycarbonate eyewear should be worn whether or not prescription eyewear is needed.

The sports that cause the most eye injuries are basketball, baseball and racket sports, but any sport where something flies at the eye is considered hazardous. Unbreakable glasses, goggles or facemasks are required when there is a potential for eye injury. Polycarbonate lenses are unbreakable and make excellent protection for the eyes.

Helmets with eye shields are recommended for football and other contact sports. Many sports, such as baseball, hockey and men’s lacrosse require a helmet with polycarbonate face mask or wire shield. Face guards can be worn over glasses, and are used primarily for football, ice hockey and similar high-risk sports. Some sports at the national level, such as hockey, have established standards for eye protection.

Goggles or sports glasses protect eyes while playing basketball, racquet sports, handball, and soccer. These goggles should be made of polycarbonate, which is 20 times stronger than ordinary eyeglass material. Prescription eyewear used during sports should be made from polycarbonate.

For high-speed sports such as skiing, wear special frames sturdy enough to protect the eyes from any impact. Wear ultraviolet absorbing goggles or sunglasses while skiing to protect the eyes from glare, ultraviolet rays and exposure to weather.

Boxing presents a high risk for eye injury, and unfortunately, there is no adequate protection available.

Contact lenses are not a form of protective eyewear. Contact lens wearers require additional protection when participating in sports.

People with only one eye should carefully consider the risks of contact sports. Wearing adequate eye protection is essential for people with only one eye.

Tanning Beds

Tanning beds produce high levels of ultra-violet (UV) light that tan the skin and burn the cornea, the clear covering of the eye. The burn is not felt until 6-12 hours after exposure, so you can suffer a severe burn without realizing it. UV light may also cause cataracts, and be a factor in the development of macular degeneration.

Of course, an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure, so always use protective eyewear while using a tanning bed. Closing your eyes, wearing regular sunglasses, and using cotton pads on your eyelids does not protect your cornea from the intensity of the UV radiation in tanning devices.

Tanning facilities are required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide goggles, but it is best to obtain your own pair so you will always be prepared. Make sure your goggles fit snugly and cover your eyes properly. If you borrow the salon’s goggles, be sure they are sterilized after each use to prevent infection.

Since you do not usually burn under tanning devices, most people do not realize the potential damage to their eyes. If you experience eye pain after UV exposure, contact your ophthalmologist.


Ophthalmologists are cautioning patients about visual side effects caused by Viagra, an oral therapy for impotence. Viagra relaxes smooth muscles in the penis by interfering with the action of a special enzyme. A nearly identical enzyme in the retina, the layer of light-sensitive cells lining the back of the eye, may also be affected by Viagra, causing a mild disturbance of color vision in approximately 3% of people taking a higher than recommended dose.

Because of this unusual side effect, doctors recommend people with retinitis pigmentosa (an inherited disease affecting the retina) use Viagra with caution. People with other retinal problems should discuss their condition with their ophthalmologist before taking Viagra.

Until more data is available, physicians strongly recommend people stay at the lowest dose possible. Presently 50 mg is the recommended amount.