Thousands of sports-related eye injuries occur each year. Injuries from many sports add to this total, and those with flying objects such as tennis, baseball and racquetball are particularly frequent contributors.

The good news is most eye injuries from sports can be prevented. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reports that 90 percent of those injuries are preventable with proper protective eyewear.

But not all injuries can be prevented, and others occur for those who choose not to wear protective gear. Here’s what you should do if you suspect yourself or a family member might have an eye injury:

Treating/recognizing injuries 

Even if an injury seems minor at first, it’s advised to have your primary care physician or ophthalmologist examine the eye as soon as possible.

If the following conditions are present after an eye injury, seek medical attention:

  • Obvious pain and/or vision impairment
  • A cut or torn eyelid
  • One eye does not move as well as the other
  • One eye sticks out
  • Pupil size or shape is irregular
  • Blood in the clear part of the eye
  • Debris in the eye that can’t be removed

In the event of an injury, the AAO recommends the following:

  • Do not touch, rub or apply pressure
  • Do not try to remove objects from the eye
  • Do not apply ointment or medication without a doctor’s order

Cuts or punctures 

  • Gently cover the eye with soft material and seek medical attention
  • Do not rinse with water
  • Do not rub or apply pressure
  • If an object is stuck in the eye, do not remove it
  • Avoid giving aspirin, ibuprofen or any other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, as those medications can thin the blood and increase the chances for bleeding

Debris in the eye 

  • Do not rub the eye
  • Lift the upper eyelid over the lashes of the lower lid
  • Blink several times and allow tears to flush out the particle
  • Keep eye closed and seek medical attention if the debris remains

Chemical burn 

  • Immediately flush the eye with clean water
  • Seek emergency medical treatment

Blow to the eye 

  • Gently apply a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling
  • Do not apply pressure
  • If vision is disturbed, seek medical attention