Doctors warn about risk of eye injuries from Nerf toy guns
A 43-year-old woman was nearly blinded in her left eye after she was struck by a Nerf foam bullet amid recent warnings from doctors concerned about the potential for more injuries with the newer high-velocity toys.
Juanita Henschel said one of her teenagers was standing approximately six metes away from her when they accidentally struck her in the eye with one of the foam darts.
"The bullet came in and shot right on the inside corner of my left eye," she recalled to CTV News from her home in Barrhead, Alta. "It definitely hurt."
Although her vision didn't change, Henschel said the next day she noticed "little black floating spots" drifting around in her vision in that eye.
Later that day, Henschel said her eye doctor told her she had a partial tear in her retina and she was at risk of going blind in her left eye. She said she couldn't believe the little foam projectile could have caused so much damage.
"I had no idea," she said. "I was like 'What? I can still see. I just have little black spots. How can it be this serious?''
Henschel said early the next morning she travelled to Edmonton to see Dr. Matthew Tennant, a retina specialist and professor at the University of Alberta.
Tennant said Henschel's retina had been torn so badly it had "ripped off its moorings."
Luckily, Tennant was able to treat Henschel's eye using a laser to hold her retina in place. The University of Alberta doctors documented her case in a study published in the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology this month. The paper included a warning about high-velocity projectile toys, such as Nerf guns and airsoft guns.
"The new guns that they have in terms of Nerf guns have much more power than they used to be and these can potentially cause significant eye injury and potentially a risk losing vision," Tennant said.
Tests have demonstrated these guns can shoot darts and balls at speeds up to 69 km/h. The report attributes these speeds to designs improvements in "gun spring technology, aerodynamic design, and increased weigh for foam bullets and foam balls."
Henschel's close call is just one of several recent cases of eye trauma linked to toy guns.
In one example, a 16-year-old boy required surgery in January to repair a detached retina after his friend shot him with a foam-ball Nerf gun.
In Britain, doctors recently reported on three more cases involving serious eye injuries from a Nerf gun. The two adults and one child all suffered "significant ocular trauma" as a result of the toy, the report stated.
Cases like these are why doctors are urging consumers to wear protective glasses when they use the toy guns.
Hasbro, the company that makes Nerf guns, always shows people wearing protective glasses in their commercials and on the packaging for the toys.
In a statement, Julie Duffy, the senior vice-president of global communications for Hasbro, said product safety is a "top priority" for the company.
"Our products comply with all applicable global safety laws, regulations and standards," the statement read. "Nerf foam darts and foam rounds are not hazardous when used properly. Consumers must never aim Nerf blasters at a person's eyes or face, should only use official Nerf darts, and never modify darts or blasters."
Even though Henschel's vision has now stabilized, she said her family has been hesitant to use the toy guns again. Instead, Henschel said she's been setting her sights on warning others about their potential risks.
"It scared us," she said. "You really need to stop and think and pay attention to how you're playing and the safety rules that you're using when you play with them."