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The impact of a soccer ball to the face can cause minor or sometimes potentially serious eye health injuries. These include bleeding, inflammation, retinal tears or detachment and can be especially dangerous for youth soccer players.

Few soccer players are seen wearing protective eye gear when playing on the field, despite soccer making up one of the highest percentages of sport related injuries.

Andy Hylton, OrthoCarolina physician assistant and former professional soccer player says direct blows to the eyes generally result in temporary blurry vision and can result in a "black eye", but occasionally a more serious eye injury can occur.

Three main eye injury concerns are:

  1. Blow out fracture - pain, double vision, decreased range of motion of the eye (look for the player to have limited ability to look up)
  2. Retinal detachment - shadow forming at the periphery of vision, flashing lights
  3. Globe rupture - decreased eye mobility, extruded eye contents, foreign body

Hylton says an urgent medical evaluation by an ophthalmologist is important if any these signs or symptoms are present.

Eye injuries do not necessarily mean that a player will have to be out of athletic competition. Many companies make protective eyewear for games and practices that may be recommended until an injury heals. However, the majority of protective eyewear does have thicker rims and can subsequently result in decreased peripheral vision for players.

Despite the current lack of popularity and protective eye gear options for soccer players, there are signs this may change in the future. Research continues to show a strong case for why both children and adult soccer players would benefit from added protection.

Andy Hylton is a physician assistant with OrthoCarolina and also has a degree in athletic training. He has played professional soccer in the U.S. and England, and also played for Great Britain’s soccer team at the World University Games (Olympics for students) in Beijing, China. Andy treats all ages and orthopedics needs, particularly sports medicine injuries and conditions.

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