Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Laser pointers: all fun and games until you shoot someone's eyesight out

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports
Cristiano Ronaldo
.

View photo

Cristiano Ronaldo is pointed with a laser during the match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. (Getty Images)

High-powered laser pens can do a lot more harm than just distracting an opposing player, like cause permanent blindness, and the fear is that the trend that's taken hold amongst European soccer fans will make its way to the United States.

Dr. Robert Josephburg, an ophthalmologist and retina specialist at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., has warned Congress that swift action is needed to crack down on the use of the laser pens – a more advanced version of the laser pointers regularly used by teachers and professors – before serious injury occurs.

Last week, the world's two most famous soccer players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, were both targeted by opposition fans during a pair of matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Spectators shined the light beams into the eyes of the players, presumably in the hope of distracting them from their performances on the field.

There have been sporadic instances of laser pens being used at American sporting events – most notably last year during a St. Louis Cardinals' game at Busch Stadium – but Josephburg fears that athletics could be particularly susceptible, especially as both the availability of the devices and injuries associated with them appear to be on the rise.

View photo

.

Lionel Messi is illuminated by laser during the match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. (Getty Images)

"I have been stunned at the power of these things," Josephburg said in a telephone interview with Yahoo! Sports on Monday. "We are talking about serious damage even if someone is only exposed to it for a few seconds.

"We are seeing young kids getting access to these pointers, and sports is an area to worry about, especially if fans are trying to get an advantage for their team. People have to realize this is not fun and games; it is serious stuff. You are endangering someone's vision. There can be huge repercussions and a real risk of causing at least temporary, and possibly permanent damage to a person's vision.

[Related: Centennial kit for U.S. national soccer teams are finally uniforms people like]

"If I was a ball player I would be terrified. I only hope Congress acts on this before some real harm is done. The retina is very sensitive and is not made to cope with light of that intensity. If shined for even a few seconds into someone's eyes different symptoms can occur, temporary blindness, blurry vision, spotty vision, the sight may not even fully return."

Laser pointers are not a new phenomenon in international soccer but their use seems to be becoming more widespread. Ronaldo was targeted early last week, during Madrid's 3-1 victory in a Spanish Cup clash in Barcelona.

Fans of Madrid then appeared to retaliate when the teams met again – this time at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium, over the weekend – with Messi on the receiving end.

Many stadiums specifically prohibit laser pens from being brought inside the grounds, yet identifying the precise location of the culprit is problematic for security staff, especially as a new range of green beams can project intense light from half a mile away.

"If you were in the last row at a football stadium you could aim at someone on the field, easily," added Josephburg.

Most standard laser pens give out a beam of between 3 to 5 milliwatts and are allowed for public sale. The lasers become dangerous when they project a beam of 50 milliwatts or more, Josephburg said. These sort of high-powered lasers, designed for use in the construction industry and medical profession, have sale restrictions imposed. However, a quick internet search provided the option of purchasing a 1.25 Watt beam – more than 200 times stronger than the typical laser pointer – from a foreign vendor.

The newer pointers usually come with a green light and are far more likely to create retina damage. Whereas the older versions could cause harm if a person was exposed to it for a long period of time, the stronger model can have serious effects almost immediately.

Incidents involving laser pointers at U.S. sporting events have been relatively scarce, although a 17-year-old boy was arrested for shining one at San Francisco Giants pitcher Shane Loux during a Major League Baseball game at the St Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium last year. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny personally identified the youth, who was charged with disturbing the peace at an athletic event.

As with any form of crowd activity, the fear of copycat occurrences must be considered, especially after the high-profile incidents in Spain were noticed by broadcasters and fans alike.

"You can clearly notice it on telecasts, especially games coming from Spain," said Aidan Magee, a journalist and broadcaster with Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. "It is obviously not ideal when you have anyone being endangered in this way, especially two of the most valuable and precious commodities in soccer like Messi and Ronaldo.

"The light is powerful to see. I remember back in the 1980s you would occasionally see the old red laser being pointed at players but it was a small dot and a relatively weak light, especially when aimed from distance.

"This is different. The green light shows up as bigger and more visible. The pointer itself is the same size as the old pens, it just sends out a far more powerful charge."

Magee said European authorities are taking laser points incidents seriously for two reasons: they don't want a high-profile match to be altered if a player is distracted, and they don't want a player to suffer any kind of damage – temporary or permanent.

For all the legal measures that can be put in place against potential sellers and importers of the high-powered laser pointers, Josephburg insists the only effective deterrent is to punish anyone found in possession of or using them.

"There is simply no need for a regular person to have one of these," Josephburg said. "It is one thing punishing the vendor, but they will pop up again. I was able to buy one on the internet and I couldn't believe its strength.

"You have to send a message that this is dangerous and to make people understand the seriousness of it."

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Several NFL teams look to change QBs despite few options
Ryan Howard is having a big spring for Phillies
Make no mistake: LeBron is mentally, physically above the fray

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Soccer
View Comments (139)

Recommended for You

  • NFL provides detail on what word Colin Kaepernick used to draw a fine, per Jay Glazer

    Colin Kaepernick was penalized and fined for inappropriate language. Jay Glazer has a report on what refs think he said. FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer is reporting referees are saying Colin Kaepernick used the n-word last week against the Chicago Bears.

    SB Nation
    Mon, Sep 22
    5:30 PM PDT
    Chicago at NY Jets
    Preview Game
  • Two Vikings players body-slammed Drew Brees and he wasn't happy about it

    On the final play of the third quarter, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Robert Blanton appeared to make a drive-ending sack on the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees. But Munnerlyn and Blanton added a WWE-esque finishing move with

    Shutdown Corner
    Sun, Sep 21
    Minnesota9 - 20New Orleans
    Game Recap
  • Week 5 Rankings | Oklahoma Sooners Reclaim No. 3 Spot In Coaches' Poll

    Week after week, the ranking continue to shift teams around. However, the top five continues to remain a constant featuring the same teams, sure in a different order, through the early part of the season. The Florida St. Seminoles almost lost their

    SB Nation
  • View

    Remembering Rob Bironas (19 photos)

    Rob Bironas, a kicker who played for the Tennessee Titans for nine seasons, died late Saturday night in a car crash near his Nashville home. He was 36. Bironas made a name for himself becoming thte Titans' second leading scorer of all-time and owning

    Yahoo Sports
    Sun, Sep 21
    5:30 PM PDT
    Pittsburgh at Carolina
    Preview Game
  • Tito Ortiz claims UFC blocked Bellator from running show in Anaheim

    If it was up to Tito Ortiz, his Nov. 15 fight against Stephan Bonnar would be held in his Orange County backyard. Ortiz helped christen the building for MMA back in 2006, when the building was known as the Arrowhead Pond, as the native of nearby Huntington Beach won a split decision of Forrest…

    SB Nation
  • Here's What A Beer Will Cost You At Every NFL Stadium This Season

    The average cost for a small draft beer at NFL games this season is $7.53, according to data collected by Team Marketing Report from each team. The increase comes despite the introduction of a $4.50 beer in St. Louis, where the Rams now have the cheapest beer in the NFL. On the other hand, the fans…

    Business Insider
    Sun, Sep 21
    Oakland9 - 16New England
    Game Recap
  • Roman Reigns update: Who will take his spot while he's out injured?

    With WWE's number two babyface Roman Reigns having emergency surgery for an incarcerated hernia yesterday and being expected to be out of action for at least four weeks, but probably for much longer, the question becomes who will WWE choose to take his spot while he's out injured. The most logical…

    SB Nation
  • Dallas Cowboys @ St. Louis Rams: Cowboys Record Comeback Results In 34-31 Win

    It was a game of streaks, as the Rams proved to be a much more potent foe than most Cowboys fans expected. It was almost over for the Dallas Cowboys in the first half. The St. Louis Rams came out on the first drive and marched effortlessly down the field for a touchdown.

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Dallas34 - 31St. Louis
    Game Recap
  • Sprint car driver killed in Wisconsin

    BEAVER DAM, Wis. (AP) -- Sprint car driver Scott Semmelmann was killed in a wreck during practice for a race Saturday night at Beaver Dam Raceway. Beaver Dam Raceway general manager Carolyn Mueller and Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Car Series President

    The Associated Press
  • Ravens fullback mocks LeBron James to Cleveland fans

    The NBA's best player, who came back to Cleveland this offseason after winning a couple titles in Miami, has a pregame ritual of putting chalk on his hands and throwing it in the air. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk has been paying attention, and he had his celebration all planned out if he scored (which is…

    Shutdown Corner
  • View

    Photos of the day - September 20, 2014 (36 photos)

    A security man guards during the Miss Egypt competition pre-final at the Saladin Citadel in Cairo, potatoes display images of U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd R) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin created by cartoon artists at a food fair in Krasnoyarsk

    Yahoo News
  • Cheap shot on Nick Foles incites brawl in Redskins-Eagles game

    The Redskins-Eagles game kept getting chippier and chippier until things finally boiled over on one of the cheapest hits that will take place in the NFL this season. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw what appeared to be an interception by Bashaud Breeland (it was overturned after a replay…

    Shutdown Corner
  • Fallon Fox fires back at 'ignorant' Ronda Rousey, wants UFC fighters to stop peeing their panties

    Fallon Fox and Cris Cyborg have something in common. No, not that, Mr. Funny Pants, they both want to fight Ronda Rousey, despite not having a contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Fox got wind of Rousey's "unfair" scouting report and has politely asked the "ignorant" 135-pound champ…

    SB Nation
  • College football rankings: Florida State still carrying ACC torch in Coaches Poll Top 25

    The ACC is sparsely represented in the latest Amway Coaches Poll Top 25. Though the Hokies are deservedly out of the Top 25 conversation, the ACC's top team continues to garner front runner status heading into college football's fifth week of the

    SB Nation
  • Eagles vs. Redskins Final Score: Philadelphia holds on for 37-34 win over Washington

    The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, 37-34. The Eagles moved to 3-0 on the 2014 NFL Season. Up next for Philadelphia is a trip out west to face the San Francisco 49ers.

    SB Nation56 mins ago
    Sun, Sep 21
    Washington34 - 37Philadelphia
    Game Recap
  • Tennis-Injury ends Azarenka's season

    Victoria Azarenka will miss rest of the tennis season as she tries to make a full recovery from injuries that plagued her year, the former world number one said on Sunday. The two-time grand slam champion withdrew from this week's Wuhan Open in China with a foot injury and later announced she would…

    Reuters
  • USC Drops to No. 18 in AP Poll

    The Trojans head out of the bye week in good standing. The Trojans had the week off, giving assistant coaches the chance to recruit across the Los Angeles area, but plenty of great Pac-12 games unfolded in the wee hours of the night. Led by No.

    SB Nation