Sports Eye Trauma Can Lead to Blindness

Greater than 40,000 eye injuries from sports occur each year requiring a visit to the local Emergency Room, according to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The good news is that most of these injuries can be treated acutely with no permanent damage to the eye.  Sports like basketball may lead to injuries in which the eye gets poked by fingers or elbows.  High velocity injuries can lead to permanent damage.  These include injuries in which the eye is struck by a fist, baseball, golf ball, or a hockey puck.  Repeat trauma to the eye may also lead to permanent damage.  An example of this would be Sugar Ray Leonard sustaining multiple retinal detachments over many years of sustained blows to the eyes.  Sustained head trauma from boxing, rugby, or football may lead to brain damage of which may result in dementia.  This leads to a situation in which the eye and visual acuity may be normal, however the patient may not be able to interrupt the images or words that he or she sees.  Dr Ashraf notes that it is very important to obtain an eye exam after any eye injury by an ophthalmologist since certain injuries may lead to eye damage many years after the injury.  For example, severe blunt trauma to the eye may lead to small tears in the retina or cause glaucoma.  These conditions may manifest many years after the initial injury and the patient usually is asymptomatic.  Unfortunately by the time the patient notices changes in his vision, it may be too late.  In a recent study it was noted that 66-76% of boxers have signs of ocular trauma.  The key finding in this study was these boxers were completely asymptomatic.  If left unchecked, some may develop glaucoma and potentially become blind.

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