Injuries and sports go hand in hand. While some can be so damaging that they can end people’s careers, most of them need a little time to heal before the sportsperson is thrust back into action.
Depending on the sport you choose, injuries can affect any part of the body. For tennis players, who run, jump, slide and stretch a lot during their matches, back, wrist, knee, elbow, hand and leg injuries are the more common ones.
One rare injury in the sport is an eye injury. Although not very common, they still happen every now and then and when they do happen they can have damaging effects.
Here we take a look at how a ball can hit a tennis player’s eye, what are the immediate steps needed to be taken to lessen the damage, how to act in case the pain doesn’t subside, and what are the preventive measures?
How Can a Tennis Player Get Hit on the Eye?
While we don’t often see players being hit by a ball during a match in tennis, but when it’s not your lucky day, the tennis ball will somehow find its way to inflict pain on you.
Ask Nicolas Mahut and the Frenchman would vouch for it. He was hit thrice during the Wimbledon doubles final in 2019 as he and his partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin went down to the Colombian duo of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
One of those blows was to the eye and he needed some immediate attention before the match restarted. Check out the incident below:
The above incident shows one way of getting hit on the eye.
A player smashes the ball towards his opponent and ball catches the opponent’s eye after bouncing once on his court.
The speed of the ball generated by the smash and the awkward bounce both give the player little time to react. He failed to make connection with the racket and the ball struck his eye, blinding him for a few seconds.
The other more painful way of getting hurt is getting hit by a volley, that is when the ball doesn’t bounce before reaching the opponent and hits the eye directly.
Imagine the speed of the smash could be around 140 km/hr or around 90 miles/hour and if the ball hits the eye at that speed this certainly could be a cause of concern.
Another way of getting hit on the eye?
There are so many permanent fixtures around the court, including the umpire’s chair, fences, the net, the stands among other things and the ball could ricochet of any of those surfaces and hit the eye while the player is either not looking in that direction or is in an awkward position to fend off the ball that’s headed towards the eye.
Sometimes the ball can strike the frame of the racket during a rally and strike the eye. The player has little time to take evasive action and gets hit on the eye.
A similar incident happened earlier in 2022 in Acapulco, when John Millman was trying to deflect a ball towards a ball boy behind him, but the ball hit the frame and shot up to hit his eye.
The freak accident forced Millman to retire and later reports suggested he suffered a scratched cornea and inflammation. Here is the incident:
John Millman has retired midway through his first round match at the @AbiertoTelcel with an eye injury.
Can’t say I’ve seen an injury like this one before.. 🤷♂️
(🎥 Tennis TV) pic.twitter.com/lc25qfIBle
— Jedd Zetzer (@JeddZetzer) February 23, 2022
What Happens When a Ball Hits the Eye?
When a player is hit in the eye, almost in all cases the eye closes for a few seconds. The player finds it difficult to open the eye and the affected eye starts to tear up.
The player is usually in pain and sometimes the eye can swell up, or they may turn red indicating bleeding.
In most cases, the player suffers blurry vision which can last a few seconds, before regaining full sight. If the vision remains blurry for a while, then that may need immediate medical attention.
What to Do When a Tennis Ball Hits the Eye?
If the injury is serious in nature, such as there is bleeding inside the eye or the eye sticks out of the socket or looks sunken, then in those cases one needs immediate professional help and should rush to an eye specialist.
In case the injury isn’t of a serious nature then one can bank on first aid treatment and see a doctor later to make sure that everything is fine.
One remedy that can give immediate relief to the player hit on the eye is using cold compresses, which reduce pain and swelling.
Cold compresses can be made with cloth towel. One needs to dip the towel in cold water; then squeeze the water out until the towel is damp. Next, fold and keep the towel in plastic bag and freeze it for 15 minutes. Take it out and gently apply that on the affected eye.
According to Rand Eye Institute, cold compresses should not be taken for too long. Not more than 20 minutes and also ice should not be directly used on the skin as they can cause frostbite.
Ice packs can also be made at home, using small pieces of ice and placing them inside plastic bags. The bags should be wrapped in cloth and applied gently to the eye.
Sometimes there could be dirt particles that can get into the eye if hit by a ball. The chances of this happening are particularly high on clay courts. One must not start rubbing the eye, which is a general tendency.
This can aggravate the injury by causing corneal abrasion or increase irritation. So even if the eye is itching, one must bear it for some time and not start scratching the eye.
If the eye’s surface (i.e. the cornea) gets damaged, then that could invite bacterial and fungal infections.
One way of getting the foreign particle out of the eye is to flush the eye. One should do it with saline water, but tap water is also said to be useful when nothing is handy.
Some people carry eyewash along with them. To know more about eyewash, their uses and how to apply them, click here.
In case the first aid isn’t working one must rush to a see an ophthalmologist.
The Next Course of Action
After getting first aid if the pain subsides and the player in question is able to see properly, then they can relax, but it’s always recommended to see a doctor to make sure the damage isn’t a major one.
However, in case things don’t come under control after applying cold compression or after flushing the eye, the player should be given immediate professional help.
Scenarios when one may need to rush the player to a doctor:
- Player suffers from traumatic iritis: That is the iris or the colored part of the eye gets inflamed after suffering a trauma.
- Player suffers from Hyphema: Hyphema is defined as the collection of blood in the anterior chamber of the eye.
- Player suffers from orbital blowout fractures, ie breaks in the bones surrounding the eye.
Retinaspecialists.com take a deeper look into the steps that one must take if they suffer an injury to the eye.
According to Key-Whitman Eye Center, “Protective eyewear such as goggles or even sunglasses made of polycarbonate protective lenses will help reduce the risk of eye injury.
Polycarbonate is shatter-resistant, and lenses made of the material are 10 times stronger than other lenses. They’re better able to withstand direct contact during sports like tennis and racquetball, and are the thinnest, lightest lenses available.
“In addition their shatter-resistance, polycarbonate lenses also filter 100 percent of ultraviolet light from the sun. This is an added safety bonus, since UV exposure can also damage eyes.”
Final Words on How to Manage an Eye Injury in Tennis
If a tennis ball hits a player on the eye it can be an extremely painful experience and one needs to act quickly to relieve the player of the pain that’s inflicted by the impact of the ball.
The injuries can range from a minor bruise or swelling to a more serious injury. One must seek professional help immediately in case it is something major.
Professional help should also be sought in case the injury is a minor one, just to ascertain the problem will not become a major one in future.