Consistent use of visors could lead to fewer eye injuries in professional football

Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Oculoplastics/Orbit

The use of visors in National Football League (NFL) games can help protect against ocular injury, but they are not always consistently used.

Study design

Weekly injury reports for all 32 NFL teams for the 2015 through 2020 seasons were analyzed from the NFL league-wide website. All injury reports from preseason, regular, and playoff games were included. Eye injuries were identified by searches for “ocular,” “eye,” “facial,” and “orbit” keywords. Game film or in-game photographs were used to determine visor use.


Out of the 250 injury reports, 16 eye injuries were identified (eye gouges, orbital fractures, corneal abrasions, and eyelid lacerations). Event rates were too low to perform multilevel regression. No significant differences in type of eye injuries sustained were found between players who wore a visor (n = 4) and players who did not (n = 12). Even though defensive linemen were more likely than offensive linemen to wear a visor, offensive and defensive players were equally affected by eye injuries.


Investigators were limited by the need to use publicly available resources, dependence on reports from team medical personnel, and an inability to definitely determine whether visor use is associated with decreased eye injuries due to a relative lack of reported eye injuries.

Clinical significance

The recent cardiac arrest–inducing injury of Damar Hamlin has raised the question of the frequency of NFL players suffering ocular and ocular adnexal injuries. The Academy has categorized football as a sport with a moderate risk of eye injury and recommends the use of a polycarbonate eye shield or visor for protection. Football players at all levels should be counseled about the devastating career-ending possibility of an eye injury and the aforementioned Academy recommendation.

Financial Disclosures: Dr. Nikisha Richards discloses no financial relationships.

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