Eye Injuries

Head and Face
NASPE/NCAT Sport Injury Resource

Black Eye (Orbital Hematoma)
A black eye occurs when the eye suffers a blow, resulting in discoloration and swelling around the soft tissue of the eye. Check to make sure vision is clear. Check to make sure the eye can track properly by having the athlete follow your finger up, down, and to each side. Check to make sure the eyeball is steady and does not flicker/twitch. Check to make sure there are no lacerations around the eye. Check to make sure the athlete does not have a head injury/concussion.

Care of an eye contusion includes application of an ice pack for approximately 20 minutes. Make sure to cover the skin with a towel prior to applying a commercial ice pack.

Foreign Object in the Eye
A foreign object in the eye (i.e., sand, dirt) can produce considerable pain and disability. DO NOT rub the eye. Rubbing the eye may cause the foreign object to scratch the cornea. If the foreign object cannot be removed with an eyewash kit or there is difficulty removing the foreign object, the athlete should be seen by an eye doctor (Ophthalmologist) as soon as possible.

If there is a foreign object lodged in the eyeball (i.e., stick, pencil), DO NOT REMOVE IT. Cover both eyes, try to stabilize the object and transport the athlete to the emergency room as quickly as possible.

Corneal Abrasions
The cornea is a transparent layer that surrounds the eyeball. It may become scratched due to a foreign object (i.e., sand) in the eye or from a finger or other object poked into the eye. An athlete with a corneal abrasion will often have watering of the eye, severe pain and sensitivity to light, which may make it difficult to open the eye. If a corneal abrasion is suspected, you should patch the eye and transport the athlete to an eye doctor.

Retinal Detachment
The retina is a group of nerves located behind the eyeball, allowing vision to be transmitted via nerves to the brain. A retinal detachment often occurs due to a blow to the eye, such as when a wrestler takes an elbow in the eye. The detachment itself is usually painless; however, there are certain signs and symptoms you need to be aware of. Early signs include seeing what appears to be spots floating before the eye, flashes of light or blurred vision. Complaints of a “curtain” falling over the field of vision is also possible. If an athlete experiences any of the above signs or symptoms, transport the athlete to an eye doctor as soon as possible.


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