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With fall sports fully underway, it’s a good time to remember that proper protection is needed to ensure safe participation, whether at the recreational level or for serious competition. Mouthguards for teeth, thermal sleeves and wraps for joints and other devices are used commonly. One body part that needs special protection is the eye.

“It’s important to protect your face to prevent injuring the bones and the eye which is ultimately about safeguarding your vision,” says Erica Gaertner, M.D., primary care sports medicine physician with the LifeBridge Health Sports Medicine Institute

Common eye and face injuries include:

  • Bruising and Black Eyes result from hard hits from physical contact from an elbow or impact from a thrown or hit ball. Treatment with ice usually resolves a non-penetrating injury.
  • Scratched Corneas can occur after debris has flown into the eye or someone’s elbow pad accidentally scratched the eye. It’s a painful injury that often results in eyes watering, making it difficult to see. Usually, the injury resolves with rest and eye drops or ointment.
  • Fractured Eye Bones can happen following contact with a hard-hit ball, equipment or another player and can result in a fracture of the eye bone. The injury is evaluated with x-rays and CT scans and could require surgery depending on the severity.
  • Lacerations can occur with contact also from another player, equipment or a ball. Deeper cuts may be closed using sutures or skin glue during a trip to the Emergency Department.
  • Retinal Detachment or Globe Rupture are serious injuries and require surgery to repair. If not treated properly, they may result in permanent vision loss.

Concussions may occur following trauma to the head.

Face and eye injuries can occur accidentally during any activity. Most expected are high contact sports like lacrosse, football, wrestling, baseball and softball, Dr. Gaertner says. But injuries also occur during more individual sports like tennis, racquetball, squash, running and cycling.

Luckily in today’s environment, there are plenty of options available for eye and face protection. Whether you’ve recovered from a prior injury or just want to safeguard yourself for a long future of exercising, consider the options, with most available at your neighborhood drug or sporting goods store.

  • Face Shield/Helmet
  • Wraparound Goggles
  • Swim Goggles
  • Sunglasses

It’s never too early to turn to protection to prevent an eye injury. Children starting recreational programs as young as five years old can be protected.

“It’s reasonable to start kids with eye protection that early as well,” Dr. Gaertner explains. “It sets the stage for a lifelong commitment to protecting their eyes.”

If you have been injured during play or want to protect yourself from injury, contact the LifeBridge Health Sports Medicine Institute for an appointment at (443) 658-8871.