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June 1995

The National Basketball Association Eye Injury Study

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology, North Shore University Hospital, Cornell University Medical College, Manhasset, NY (Drs Zagelbaum, Donnenfeld, and Perry); Department of Ophthalmology, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY (Drs Zagelbaum and Hersh); Department of Physical Therapy, Northeastern University Athletic Training Education Program, Boston, Mass (Dr Starkey); and Department of Ophthalmology, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa (Dr Jeffers). Dr Zagelbaum is now in private practice in Manhasset, NY.

Arch Ophthalmol. 1995;113(6):749-752. doi:10.1001/archopht.1995.01100060075035

Objective:  To investigate the epidemiology of eye injuries sustained by professional basketball players in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Methods:  A prospective study involving all NBA athletes who sustained eye injuries between February 1,1992, and June 20, 1993, was conducted. Twenty-seven NBA team athletic trainers, physicians, and ophthalmologists were provided data forms to complete for any player examined for an eye injury. Practice and game exposures during the preseason, regular season, playoffs, and championships were included.

Results:  Of the 1092 injuries sustained by NBA players during the 17-month period, 59 (5.4%) involved the eye and adnexa. Eighteen (30.5%) of the injuries occurred while the player was in the act of rebounding, and 16 (27.1%) while the player was on offense. The most common diagnoses included 30 abrasions or lacerations to the eyelid (50.9%), 17 contusions (edema and/or ecchymosis) to the eyelid or periorbital region (28.8%), and seven corneal abrasions (11.9%). There were three orbital fractures (5.1%). Most injuries were caused by fingers (35.6%) or elbows (28.8%). Nine players (15.3%) missed subsequent games because of their injury. Fiftyseven players (96.6%) were not wearing protective eyewear at the time of injury.

Conclusions:  The incidence of eye injuries in NBA players during the 17-month period was 1.44 per 1000 game exposures. Frequent physical contact in professional basketball players leaves them at great risk for sustaining eye injuries. To prevent these injuries, protective eyewear is recommended.

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