Protect Your Eyes When Playing Pickleball, Other Racket Sports



Pickleball is one of the most popular and fastest-growing sports, with more than 400,000 players worldwide. A combination of badminton, ping-pong and tennis, pickleball is an energetic sport that is easy to learn and suitable for all levels of athletic ability. Although it is a low-impact, family-friendly activity, pickleball can cause eye injuries or even vision loss, so it is essential to wear eye protection.

Types of Eye Injuries from Racket Sports

Pickleballs have holes like wiffle balls and travel about one-third the speed of tennis balls, but they can still travel up to 40 miles per hour

“While pickleball is generally considered to be a safe sport due to its non-contact nature, the risk of eye injuries cannot be overlooked,” said Andrew G. Lee, MD, chair of the Blanton Eye Institute at Houston Methodist. “The high velocity of the ball and small court poses a significant risk for eye injuries.”

Eye injuries from rackets are potentially high risk for older people who may lack quick reflexes and have a longer reaction time than younger participants. Less skilled players of all ages are also at increased risk.

The potential for eye injury increases when playing doubles (two against two) in racket sports, like pickleball.

“A lot of people stand very close to the net when they’re playing pickleball,” said Raj Maturi, MD, ophthalmologist and member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “A ball directed to the eye can come faster than you have time to reflexively react to, causing significant vision impairment.”

Pickleball and other racket sports can cause several types of eye injuries, including the following:

  • Retinal tear or detachment from being hit in the eye with a pickleball or racket
  • Corneal abrasion from the ball or the edge of a racket scratching the eye’s surface

Protect Your Eyes When Playing Racket Sports

About 90 percent of serious eye injuries could be prevented by wearing appropriate eyewear. People who play racquetball and squash are more likely to wear eye protection, but pickleball players rarely wear protective glasses. The most effective eyewear are polycarbonate safety goggles with front and side coverage. Sunglasses were not made to prevent eye injuries, but they offer more protection than no glasses at all.

Easy Ways to Maintain Clear Vision

A healthy lifestyle can help you preserve your vision for years to come. Here are some tips on how to care for your vision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  1. Wear protective eyewear when participating in sports, outdoor activities, home repairs or yard work.
  2. Wear sunglasses that wrap around your face and that have 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
  3. Quit smoking or never start smoking.
  4. Wash your hands before you touch your eyes or before you remove your contact lenses.
  5. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for contact lenses and do not over-wear your contacts. Replace them as directed.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight.
  7. Eat plenty of dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and collard greens and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout, halibut, sardines and albacore tuna).
  8. Know your family’s eye health history and be aware of any eye conditions that run in your family.
  9. See your eye doctor every year.

Schedule Your Comprehensive Eye Exam during Healthy Vision Month

Getting your eyes checked is as important as having an annual well checkup with your primary care physician. May is Healthy Vision Month, a time to prioritize your optical health.

Approximately 37 million adults in America have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma, all of which can cause visual impairment or blindness. A comprehensive eye exam is the best way to find out if you have eye problems, need a new prescription or are in the early stages of a chronic eye condition or disease.

Find an Ophthalmologist Near You

Has it been over a year since you had a complete eye exam? Healthy Vision Month is the perfect time to call your eye doctor and schedule appointments for your family. If you have recently moved or need a new eye care professional, we can help. Our vision centers are located nationwide and are accepting new patients. Make a renewed commitment to your eye health and schedule a visit today.