Our eyes are naturally able to defend themselves against a broad range of hazards: eyelids, eyelashes and blink reflex all provide a mechanical barrier, and the iris contracts automatically against bright lights. The bony cavity containing the eyeball protrudes to provide further protection, particularly in children. Our tear makeup also provides a further barrier, by containing lipids and oils. Yet natural mechanisms alone are not enough to prevent all eye injuries.

Sports and recreational activities are essential for our health and emotional well being.  However, sometimes things go awry.  Serious eye injuries have occurred in a wide range of sports including ice and field hockey, baseball, La crosse, grand Prix racing, and cricket.

Baseball players commonly suffer retinal detachments and orbital fractures after being hit in the eye by a ball at speed.  Those that have suffered such injuries mostly retire from the game due to permanent damage to their vision.

A much-published case of cricketing eye injury was that of the late former prime minister Bob Hawke, who suffered corneal lacerations when his glass spectacles were shattered by a cricket ball during a match in 1984.

Eye protection was introduced for junior grades playing squash thanks to the Perth based ophthalmologist Mary Bremner.  Factors that influence the success or failure to introduce eye protection include compliance and cost.

Awareness of the mechanisms of eye injuries and education about appropriate interventions has helped contribute to significantly preventing work-related eye injuries.  Agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and fishing continue to present hazards to workers and a high proportion of eye injuries occur in these fields.  Mandatory occupational health and safety requirements, and the successful deployment of eye—injury prevention strategies, has reduced the number of occupational injuries usually reporting not wearing eye protection due to problems with comfort or fogging of the eye protection due to poor fitting.

This article has been adapted from Division article published August 2019.