Nerf guns found to cause serious eye injuries and internal bleeding

Doctors recommend protective eyewear for children using toys that shoot foam darts

Mark Hilliard Jack Power

Nerf guns, the popular toys that shoot foam darts, have been found to cause serious eye injuries including internal bleeding, the British Medical Journal has warned.

Authors of a report highlight three cases of UK patients who arrived at hospital having been shot in the eye, each in pain and with blurred vision.

While in each case the bleeding had stopped and eye sight later returned to normal, the BMJ said such incidents can have “serious impact”.


Nerf guns, which are sold in Ireland, fire a foam dart at high speed. Authors of the report said that in one of the highlighted cases the darts were a generic version, harder than the branded equivalent but that parents may not be aware of the difference.

One of the three patients was a child who developed swelling of the cornea and retina from the force and speed of the bullet.

Doctors are now recommending that, as with squash, those using Nerf guns should wear protective eyewear given the chance of injury and loss of vision. They also said the safe age limit for use among children may need to be reviewed.

“Sports in which the risk of [EYE]trauma is relatively high, such as a squash ball, have seen an introduction of protective eyewear in the UK,” the report notes.

“This case series emphasises the seriousness of [EYE INJURY]from Nerf gun projectiles and calls into consideration the need for protective eyewear with their use.”

Irish optometrists have heard anecdotal evidence of a rise in eye injuries from children playing with nerf guns. Lynda McGivney-Nolan, optometric advisor to the Association of Optometrists Ireland said the issue is becoming more common.

“Previously the nerf guns were smaller, more recently I have seen new models of the toy guns which are much larger. They’re marketed as being more powerful, and the foam darts go further” she said.

Eye injuries that could result from taking a foam dart directly to the eye include corneal injuries and a detached retina.

Ms McGivney-Nolan said she would see those type of injuries as more common where a hurling sliotar, football boot stud or rugby ball would hit a child’s eye playing sport.

“I think parents should be mindful that the foam guns can cause injury. I think the increase we are hearing about is down to the toys increase in prevalence and popularity among children.

“In terms of advice there is cheap safety eyewear parents can purchase, if they are concerned” she said.

In a statement, Hasbro, the manufacturer of Nerf guns, said product safety was its utmost concern.

“NERF products are designed based on years of consumer insights and research, and undergo rigorous reviews and testing to assure that they are safe and fun to play with, and meet or exceed global standards and regulations,” it said.

It said the foam darts are not hazardous when used properly and that alternative darts, not NERF-branded, “may not meet safety standards and regulations”.

“It’s important to note that the NERF brand encourages parents and caregivers to be involved in aspects of their children’s development, including play,” it said.

“Ultimately, a parent or caregiver knows his or her child best and is best equipped to make decisions on what forms of play and entertainment are most appropriate for his or her child.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times