Injuries to the eyes can occur in any sport. The possibility of losing partial or total sight can occur when there is an injury to the eye region. Whether the injury comes from a thrown object, finger poke, or a speck of dirt it is essential to treat any injury to the eye or eye area as significant.

Evaluating an acute injury

  • Inspect around the eye for swelling, discoloration, deformities and eyelid movement
  • Palpate for tenderness and bony deformities around the eye socket
  • Inspect the entire eye and mucous lining for foreign bodies, blood or other deformities
  • Check pupils (they should be equal in size, get smaller when exposed to light, larger when exposed to dark)
  • Determine vision clearness by having the athlete look at an object with the unaffected eye covered. The athlete may complain of blurry vision, seeing double, floating black specks, or flashing light. This may indicated a serious eye injury.

Common eye injuries:

Black eye

A contusion to surrounding tissue. Severity is determined by swelling, discoloration or vision problem.


  • Cold compress for 10 - 20 minutes

Note: Never place ice or cold directly onto the eye or eyelid. Avoid using chemical packs as they may leak and cause further damage.

Foreign bodies

Can be a speck of dirt to a piece of shattered glass. Inside the eye may produce considerable pain and disability.


  • Flush eye with eye irrigation fluid or water
  • Refer to ophthalmologist if flushing attempt is unsuccessful

Corneal abrasions

Occurs when a foreign object in the eye scratches the cornea.

The athlete may experience

  • severe pain
  • watering of the eye
  • light sensitivity


  • Patch the eye and refer to an ophthalmologist


Collection of blood in the anterior chamber of the eye. Caused by blunt trauma. Vision can be partially or totally blocked.

Note: Consider this injury a very serious eye injury and refer to the nearest emergency department for evaluation.

Orbital blowout

Occurs when ridge of eye sockets struck by an object causing a fracture to the area in which the eye muscles attach.

  • Bleeding around the lower margins of the eye occurs
  • Athlete complains of double vision
  • Pain with eye movements

Note: Refer to the nearest emergency department for evaluation.

Retinal detachment

Occurs from a blow to the eye or surrounding soft tissue. The force can cause detachment of the retina.

  • Pain to the eye
  • Floating specks
  • Flashes of light
  • Blurred vision

Note: Refer to the nearest emergency department for evaluation.

Any injury to the eye or surrounding area can lead to a lifetime disability. When in doubt, the athlete should be referred immediately for medical attention.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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