High velocity projectile toys are very popular in Canada.  Many believe that these toys are safe because the darts that are used are “soft”.  However, these airsoft gun pellets, often found in Nerf brand products, can cause a variety of eye injuries.

Projectile toys have been found to cause serious eye injuries, including eye scrapes or scratches, bleeding, cataracts, increased eye pressure, blurred vision, torn or detached retinas and temporary or permanent vision loss.  Blurry vision may occur as a result of swelling in the retina following a traumatic eye injury.


University of Alberta eye specialist Dr. Matthew Tennant is advocating for safety rules surrounding Nerf guns after treating a woman who was accidentally hit in the eye by a Nerf dart fired from six metres away.  This resulted in the woman suffering a tear to her retina, which can result in permanent vision loss if left untreated.  Fortunately, Dr. Tennant treated the woman and she went on to recover. This case was documented in the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Tennant described the injury as follows:

You can think of the eye as a basketball.  When you bounce the ball, it compresses down and widens sideways.  Trauma can cause the same thing to the eye, and the sudden stretching causes a tear to the retina.

Dr. Tennant maintains that projectile weapons are being manufactured with better gun springs and heavier foam bullets than in the past.  Tests have demonstrated these guns can shoot darts and balls at speeds up to 69 km/h. 

Dr. Tennant is advocating for mandatory eye protection when using these types of airsoft projectile toys.  He is working with the Canadian Ophthalmological Society to create a policy statement about these types of toys, and others including paintball guns, in an effort to increase safety awareness among manufacturers and consumers.  Dr. Tennant maintains that this type of recommended eye protection is similar to face cages on helmets, which are required for minor hockey players, and seatbelts for passengers in vehicles.

Dr. Tennant stated:

The policy will likely state something along the lines of, ‘Children should not be using these without adult supervision’ and that anyone using these toys should be wearing eye protection, and preferably a face shield.

Hasbro, the company that makes Nerf guns, maintains that they go to great lengths to ensure that their toys are safe.  The toy company upholds that its products are not inherently dangerous when they are used properly and according to the recommended guidelines.

According to Julie Duffy, the senior vice-president of global communications for Hasbro:

Our products comply with all applicable global safety laws, regulations and standards.  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.


The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that customers avoid purchasing all types of projectile-firing toys because of safety concerns. 

These are a few other toys that pose a high risk for eye injuries:

  1. Toy crossbows are able to shoot arrows nearly 150 feet, however their impact at close range can result in serious eye injury.  Arrows made from plastic can cause corneal abrasions (a scratch or scrape on your cornea) that can scar over when healed, and lead to permanent affects to vision.
  2. Darts are another type of toy that can injure the eye, and potentially cause hyphema (when blood collects inside the front of the eye between the cornea and the iris), which raises the risk of developing glaucoma.
  3. Water balloon launchers and water guns can cause trauma to the eye and a stream of water can serious damage to eyes, especially when used at close range.
  4. Toy wands, swords or sabers are also types of toys that can lead to eye trauma, if used carelessly.
  5. Aerosol string (silly string) is another product that can cause eye irritation, and if used at close range it can cause a corneal abrasion, which could lead to serious eye infections.
  6. Laser pointers and bright flashlights can also be dangerous and may lead to temporary blindness. They may also put children at risk of a fall or other accident.


Cuming & Gillespie LLP would like to provide a few recommendations to parents to safeguard against injuries to their children when playing with Nerf guns or other toys that fire projectiles:

  • Do your research to ensure that you are selecting the safest model and accessories for your projectile toy and specifically pay attention to the manufacturer’s age recommendations.
  • Do not allow your children to use projectile toys unsupervised.
  • Be aware that although Nerf brand products are manufactured to comply with strict safety regulations, other brands that purport to be Nerf compatible may not.  There are some bullets made by other manufacturers that have a harder end and may pose a greater threat for injury.
  • Do not modify or allow your children to modify the guns, darts or blasters in an effort to shoot further, harder and faster.  Altering the toy in any way can deteriorate the safety measures built into the design of the toy and may result in trauma.
  • Do not allow your children to use projectile toys without eye protection.
  • Educate your children to never aim or shoot at anyone’s eyes or face.
  • Encourage your children to shoot at objects and not people.

If you or your loved one have experienced a serious personal injury or loss and would like information about your legal options, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced and award winning personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP.  Please contact our office for a free case evaluation online or by calling 403-571-0555.  We are dedicated to providing you with the legal help you deserve.