Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Tips & Tools


Does my child need eye protection for sports?

Sylvia H. Yoo, MD, FAAO, FAAP


It is terrific for children to be involved in sports for physical and mental health. While we may not always be able to prevent sports injuries, there are ways we can reduce their chances of getting hurt.

Eye injuries are a major cause of vision loss in children, and many of these injuries occur while playing sports. Most of these injuries can be prevented by wearing protective eyewear.

Pediatricians and eye doctors recommend that all kids who play school- or community-organized sports wear appropriate eye protection. Several sports organizations now require protective eyewear: ice hockey, fencing, racquetball, women's lacrosse and squash, for example. Protective eyewear also has become accepted in other sports, such as skiing and snowboarding.

Protective eyewear is recommended for any sport with a risk of eye injury.

Some sports have a higher risk of eye injury than others. Basketball, baseball and softball, and football, for example, are among sports with highest risk of eye injuries.

Here's a rundown on the level of eye injury risk of various sports:

High risk

  • Baseball and softball

  • Basketball

  • Boxing

  • Cricket

  • Fencing

  • Field hockey

  • Full contact martial arts

  • Ice hockey

  • Lacrosse

  • Mountain biking

  • Paintball

  • Racquetball and squash

Moderate risk

  • Badminton

  • Football

  • Fishing

  • Golf

  • Soccer

  • Tennis

  • Volleyball

  • Water polo

Lower risk

  • Bicycling

  • Diving

  • Gymnastics

  • Non-contact martial arts

  • Skiing

  • Swimming

  • Track and field

  • Wrestling

What kinds of eye injuries can occur during sports?

Most eye injuries in sports happen when something hits or punctures the eye. Wounds may range from mild to serious, such as:

  • a scratch on the cornea, the clear front part of the eye

  • inflammation or bleeding inside the eye

  • a detached retina, an important layer of tissue lining the back of the eye

  • severe injury to the wall of the eye itself

  • fracture of a bone around the eye

These injuries increase the risk of vision loss. They can also lead to other eye conditions, such as early cataracts.

Eye injuries can affect athletes of all ages. One 15-year-old girl in California suffered a retinal detachment after being poked in the eye while playing basketball and was promptly treated. After her experience, she became an advocate for sports eye safety.

What type of protective eyewear should my child wear for sports?

The best type of sports eye protection to use depends on the sport. For some sports, such as baseball, football and ice hockey, a helmet-mounted visor is more protective, though goggles can also provide protection.

Ice hockey players use clear visors attached to their helmets that are approved by The Hockey Equipment Certification Council. Baseball visors are approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, and goggles used in lacrosse and field hockey are certified by the Safety Equipment Institute.

In addition, the American Society for Testing and Materials sets sport-specific standards to prevent eye injuries.

Most protective eyewear is made from polycarbonate, a type of plastic that is impact-resistant and shatterproof. Some goggles have an anti-fog coating or side vents to reduce fogging during active play. Customizing goggles with a child's eyeglasses prescription for vision correctoin is an option, if needed.

If my child wears regular glasses, or sunglasses, do they still need protective eyewear?

Regular eyeglasses and sunglasses do not provide enough protection for sports. In most cases, safety eyewear for certain jobs also are not protective for playing sports. Contact lenses do not provide any eye protection, of course, but your child can wear protective eyewear over them.

Do some vision conditions raise the risk of sports-related eye injury?

Children with vision loss in one eye should always wear protective eyewear during sports. (They should also avoid a few sports such as boxing and full-contact martial arts completely.) Any level of vision impairment can put children at higher risk of sight-threatening complications from eye injuries. The risk is also greater for children with very high myopia (nearsightedness) or a history of eye surgery.

Talk with your child's doctor about their risk based on the specific eye condition and the sport.

What should I do if my child injures their eye?

If your child hurts their eye while playing a sport, get them checked out as soon as possible. Call your eye doctor or go to the emergency room. Delaying treatment of some types of eye injuries risks permanent vision loss and possibly blindness.

More information

Sylvia H. Yoo, MD, FAAO, FAAP

​​​Sylvia H. Yoo, MD, FAAP, FAAO is Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Tufts University School of Medicine and practices pediatric ophthalmology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA. She is Chair-Elect of the AAP Section on Ophthalmology.

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Opthalmology (Copyright © 2022)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Follow Us