Sight for Sore Eyes

Armen Hareyan's picture

ANN ARBOR, MI - Basketball, baseball, soccer, paintball: it's all fun and games until someone gets an elbow, ball or paint pellet in the eye.

Sports-related eye injuries, which affect more than 40,000 people in the United States a year, can lead to considerable loss of vision, says Shahzad Mian, M.D.

"The injuries that can occur with sports-related trauma can certainly be very significant, and the person who is injured may not realize early on how significant the injury really is," says Mian, a cornea and cataract surgeon with the U-M Health System's Kellogg Eye Center.

"They may just have a bruise around the eye, but they may also have a bleed inside the eye, a retinal detachment or damage to the lens in the eye. It's very important to seek medical advice, especially with an ophthalmologist."

The growing popularity of paintball opens up a realm of injuries beyond those that affect participants in traditional sports, Mian says. Paint pellets, which are about the size of a dime and are fired at high rates of speed, can cause abrasions or bleeding inside the eye, as well as cataract formation. The impact also can cause retinal detachments and lacerations of the entire eye, leading to some vision loss, Mian says.

In the past five to 10 years, he says, the Kellogg Eye Center has started seeing a rapid increase in paintball-related injuries as more and more people, especially teenagers, have been participating in the sport.

"The injuries related to paintball can be severe enough to lead to blindness in 30 percent of individuals who suffer these injuries," Mian says. "Most eye injuries related to paintball occur when individuals are not using protective eyewear or when they take off their eye protection due to fogging or splatter of paint on the surface."

He points to standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials for protective eyewear. Use of approved eye protection devices can significantly reduce or eliminate injuries associated with paintball, Mian says.


When should people seek medical attention for their eye injuries? Mian offers some suggestions: When the injury involves vision loss that is not resolving or significan pain, the person should seek immediate advice from an eye care professional or primary care provider.

Other times to contact your doctor: When there are flashes or floaters, pain around the eye, or a bruise around the eye, which may indicate a bleed inside the eye, retinal detachment or damage to the lens.

Facts about sports-related eye injuries:

  • More than 40,000 people a year suffer eye injuries while playing sports, according to Prevent Blindness America.

  • Experts recommend wearing safety goggles for basketball and racquet sports, helmets with face shields for youth baseball and hockey, and approved protected eyewear for paintball.

  • Corneal abrasions, scratches on the outer layer of the cornea, often occur in sports when a player gets poked in the eye or hit in the eye with a ball. Symptoms may include redness, tearing, sensitivity to light and blurry vision.

  • Parents should call a doctor immediately if their child suffers any injury to the eye itself, if the skin is split open and may need stitches, or if vision is blurred in either eye.


The source of this article release is