Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Ocular Injuries May Not Be the Most Common, But Are They Easily Preventable? (Sports Med Res)
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ocular Injuries May Not Be the Most Common, But Are They Easily Preventable?

Epidemiology of sports-related eye injuries in the United States

Haring RS, Sheffield ID, Canner JK, and Schneider EB. JAMA Opthamology. 2016. 134 (12).

Take Home Message: Sport-related ocular injuries are most commonly open wounds to the eye or surrounding visual structures. Advocating for, or implementing rule changes to require protective eyewear could greatly mitigate this risk.

Ocular injuries can have long-term impact on an athlete’s ability to see and overall quality of life. By understanding the cause and prevalence of ocular injuries, clinicians can develop equipment and operating procedures to lessen the risk of injury. Therefore, Haring and colleagues completed a retrospective study to assess the incidence of ocular injuries in the United States as a result of participation in sports and identify any associated risk factors. Researchers used data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample database to identify patients who experienced ocular trauma and were seen in an emergency department between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2013. Overall 85,961 patients were primarily seen for ocular trauma due to sports-related activity. These patients represented 3.3% of all ocular trauma cases seen in emergency rooms. The leading cause of ocular trauma among male and female patients were basketball and baseball/softball respectively. The most common injuries were open wounds to the accessory visual structures (34%) and contusions of the eye or accessory visual structures (30%).

Overall, the data presented in the current study suggests that ocular injury due to physical activity is a small portion of all ocular injuries seen in emergency rooms. While the proportion of ocular injuries due to sport is small, the long-term impact of ocular injuries on athlete can be great and should not be overlooked. Further, the injuries most commonly reported can be easily prevented by protective eyewear. Firstly, clinician who work with athletes who participate in high risk sports such as basketball, baseball or softball should strongly encourage athletes to use appropriate protective eyewear to mitigate the risk of ocular injury. Healthcare professionals may also consider efforts to promote rule changes that would require athletes in high-risk sports to wear appropriate protective eyewear. Until rule changes can be implemented, clinicians should continue to educate their patients about the risks and long-term effects of ocular injuries and strongly encourage the use of protective eyewear. 

Questions for Discussion: How do you educate athletes about ocular injuries? What impediments do you think exist with regards to implementing rule changes which would require protective eyewear? Would your basketball or baseball/softball players wear protective eye equipment?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by:  Jeffrey Driban

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Haring RS, Sheffield ID, Canner JK, & Schneider EB (2016). Epidemiology of Sports-Related Eye Injuries in the United States. JAMA ophthalmology, 134 (12), 1382-1390 PMID: 27812702

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