Athletic Optics Article on Eye Protection for racquet sports.

Athletic Optics

This interesting article is from

Though this information is primarily about squash, the same risks exist for all racquet sports. The risk of serious eye injury while playing racquet sports such as squash is very low, but one in every four players will receive some form of eye injury in their playing life. A momentary lapse of concentration, or an accident can cause a lifetime of blindness. The good news is the risk of a player being blinded is TOTALLY AVOIDABLE if proper eye protection is worn.
What is the Risk? International studies done on eye injuries through Squash found that eye injury occurs between 5 and 33 times per 100,000 playing sessions and that a person has a 25% chance of receiving an eye injury in a playing career.

Who is at Risk? All players. No exceptions. Often beginners are less vulnerable because they do not turn around to watch their opponent. Better players keep their eye on the ball at all times and can be more at risk. Good players do get injured. Read the message below from Will Carlin (former USA Number 1 player) and stop believing your skill will protect you.

What Causes an Accident? Most players receive minor injuries to the eyebrow and eye surround from racket blows that do not require any more treatment than a dressing. Sometimes more serious accidents happen with the racket, but two-thirds of all serious accidents, and almost all blind eyes are caused by the ball. An A grade player hits the ball at up to 200 kilometres per hour and it has 4 times the energy of a .22 bullet.

What Damage Can Occur?

Hyphaema: Bleeding inside the eye, which can have long-term complications and possibly leads to glaucoma.
Pupil Injury: Tears to the iris can distort the pupil and lead to an inability to focus.
Retinal Damage: Hemorrhage and swelling of the retina can permanently reduce vision.
Orbital Fractures: Surgery is often needed and double vision or disfigurement can result.
What is the Result? Blindness, even in one eye, can cause misery and ruin lives and careers. After an air force pilot lost vision in one eye from a squash ball, he lost his license to fly and a future high earning job as a civil airline pilot.

The Final Facts Today, over 60% of adults wear eye protection. Ten years ago it was 20%. The incidence of Squash inflicted blindness has all but disappeared.


About five years ago I was hit in the eye by a Squash ball. At that time I was the United States Squash champion and number 1 player and, for the first time in fifteen years, I was playing without eye guards because they were in my other bag and I had forgotten to transfer them. If anyone tells you that eye injuries don’t happen to good players they are wrong.

It was a random accident. My left-handed opponent was hitting out of the back corner. I was on the T. I thought the ball was going down the wall so I edged over a little, but then as I watched him he hit a cross-court shot instead and it went directly into my eye from close range. Hard.

I went down and when I tried to open my eye, I couldn’t. It was swollen past the end of my nose. I went to the hospital immediately but there was so much blood in the eye that they couldn’t inspect the retina and I had to sleep overnight in a sitting position to let it drain. Two days later it had cleared enough for inspection and the report came – emergency surgery.

My retina was torn and partially detached and the operation consisted of stitching a small piece of metal to the outside of the eye so that the torn edges could overlap. For a week I could not read or watch TV and was in terrible pain. It was four months before I could play Squash again and then after a year, I found that more surgery was required to repair another part of the retina. This time there were complications and for about a week I thought I was going to lose the sight of that eye.

Now, with powerful contact lenses, my vision is about 20/30 but I have ghost images everywhere and will get glaucoma in the next 10 to 15 years. But the thing that frustrates me most is that I have not been able to stop more people getting the same injury. It happens more than most people think and yet it does not have to happen.

Do me one favor; let me be the idiot for all of us. Please wear eye protection every time you step on the court.

Will Carlin

Brooklyn, NY