What are sports-related corneal abrasion?

Updated: Jan 03, 2019
  • Author: Arun Verma, MD; Chief Editor: Andrew A Dahl, MD, FACS  more...
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Corneal abrasions can occur in almost all sports. They most frequently occur in young people.

In places where soccer is played frequently, impact with the soccer ball causes approximately one third of all sports-related eye injuries. Contrary to previous ophthalmologic teaching that balls larger than 4 inches in diameter rarely cause eye injury, 8.6-inch soccer balls cause most soccer-related eye injuries, both serious (eg, hyphema, vitreous hemorrhage, retinal tear, chorioretinal rupture, angle recession) and minor (eg, corneal abrasions, contusions). [7]

Approximately 1 in 10 college basketball players has an eye injury each year. Most basketball-related eye injuries are corneal abrasions caused by an opponent's finger or elbow striking the player's eye.

The incidence of severe eye injuries in wrestling is low. In a study at Michigan State University, 18.4% of wrestlers had eye injuries that were relatively mild (eg, lacerated eyebrows, corneal abrasions) and that left no permanent damage. [8] The average college team with 25 players and 2600 athlete exposures should expect 1-2 eye injuries each season, with a significant injury every 9-10 seasons. [9]

Although significant eye injuries are not a major risk in equestrian events other than polo, cross-country riders frequently have corneal abrasions from hitting tree branches overhanging the trail. Wearing spectacles with polycarbonate lenses provides adequate protection against this risk.

Although cross-country skiing causes fewer musculoskeletal injuries than alpine skiing, cross-country skiers are more likely than alpine skiers to have eye injuries, especially corneal abrasions from contact with tree twigs. [10] In addition, both cross-country and downhill skiers can have solar keratopathy (snow blindness) and injuries due to accidents with ski poles.

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