Basketball going through the hoop

Shield your eyes: The madness begins

To be immortalized on an all-time list come tournament time is a rare honor for any college basketball player, unless it's a most-devastating-injuries list. Just ask former Villanova Wildcat Allan Ray.

A hustle play during the 2006 Big East tournament saw Ray dive for a loose ball, only to receive a flailing finger to the eye. A squeamish clip circulated sports media, but Ray suffered no major injury and returned to the Wildcats a week later for the NCAA tournament.

“Basketball is probably the top sport for ocular injuries across all age groups, from young children to college and professional athletes.”

Ray's injury is only one of many that exemplify statistics highlighted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) for years: Basketball is one of the leading causes of sports-related eye injuries requiring ER treatment. The NEI classifies basketball as a high-risk sport for eye injuries, and the Coalition to Prevent Sports Eye Injuries reported 1 in 10 college basketball players will suffer an eye injury each season.

"Optometrists should be doing everything they can, No. 1, to ensure their athlete-patients are fully, visually optimized for their sport, and No. 2, fully protected, especially for those sports that are heavily eye injury related," says Fred Edmunds, O.D., AOA Sports Vision Section vice chair. "Basketball is probably the top sport for ocular injuries across all age groups, from young children to college and professional athletes."

So as the nation dons its collegiate colors for the start of the big tourney, take the time to educate your patients about basketball vision safety.

Fast tips for basketball vision safety

  • Protective eyewear can prevent up to 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries, according to the NEI. But the 2013 AOA American Eye-Q® survey results show only about 32 percent of adults wear eye protection during sports, and only about 50 percent of parents make their children wear eye protection. American Society for Testing and Materials certified that eyewear helps prevent injuries and recommends it for athletes. Soft contact lenses also can add a protective element in reducing corneal abrasions or lacerations.

  • Recommend athletic trainers and coaches keep an ocular emergency first aid kit on the bench so eye trauma can be dealt with swiftly and properly. Dr. Edmunds suggests kits include saline to irrigate eyes, and a penlight with a blue filter and fluorescein dye to detect foreign bodies.

  • Include an SVS Ocular Emergency Triage Card in the kit to let athletic trainers and coaches know when it's time to visit the optometrist for an eye injury. The card helps promote a rapport with local trainers and optometric practices.

The frequency of basketball-related eye injuries might not be as common as the Three Stooges shooting hoops in monochrome would make it seem, but NEI statistics reaffirm a high prevalence of cases seasonally requiring awareness for preventing sight-threatening injuries.

Visit the AOA Sports Vision Section online at for more information on a wide variety of sports vision-related topics and additional resources.

March 19, 2014

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