The eye is a soft and exposed organ.

Why doesn't a punch to the eye cause blindness or rupture more often?

In fact, I have never heard of boxers or MMA fights going blind?

I've seen many swollen or black eyes.

Why doesn't the impact that caused those swollen eyes enough to rupture the eye entirely, permanently destroying it?


1 Answer 1


As per "Eye Trauma in Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing" and "The Trouble With Having Fun: Eye and Head Trauma From Sports", boxing and MMA are not devoid of eye injuries.

In total 1539 boxing injuries (from 4313 contests) and 1442 MMA injuries (from 2704 contests) were identified. Boxing had higher eye injury rates compared to MMA ( p < 0.0001), with an odds ratio of 1.268 (95% CI, 1.114-1.444). Eye trauma represented 47.63% of boxing injuries and 25.59% of MMA injuries, with periocular lacerations being the most common eye injury in both. Orbital fractures represented 17.62% of eye injuries in MMA and 3.14% in boxing contests. However, 2%-3% were retinal in both sports, and 3.27% were glaucomatous in boxing. MMA contestants had an odds ratio of 1.823 (95% CI, 1.408-2.359) for requiring physician evaluation following an eye injury compared with boxing. MMA contestants also had a higher rate of face ( p < 0.0001) and body ( p < 0.0001) injuries. For both sports, an increased number of rounds and being the losing fighter were associated with increased odds of eye and face injury.

Conclusion: Although boxing has a higher rate of eye injuries, MMA eye injuries are more likely to require physician evaluation. MMA contestants also have a higher rate of orbital fractures and face and body trauma. A detailed postfight examination and long-term follow-up of ocular injury in combat sports will be vital in proposing reforms to prevent eye trauma.

The Special Price of Pugilism

While most vision deficits from eye injuries sustained during sports are immediately apparent, others emerge after many episodes of battering, such as in boxing. In a paper on eye trauma in boxing published in Clinics in Sports Medicine, Gustavo Corrales, MD, found that boxers are at increased risk for glaucoma years after trauma to the head and eye occurs.1 “Because of the trauma a boxer sustains, there’s damage to the trabecular meshwork and, with time, you can see increases in intraocular pressure. So a boxer who sustains significant trauma might develop glaucoma 10 years later,” said Dr. Corrales, an associate professor at Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia.

No one’s keeping track? It’s also sometimes difficult to assess the potential long-term risks to vision for athletes who participate regularly in sports such as boxing, Dr. Corrales said. There is no centralized database that records the actual incidence, nature or outcome of eye injuries in boxing. Assessing incidence and outcomes from boxing trauma is made more difficult by the fact that injuries often affect only one eye, and are thus more easily hidden by the athletes who fear disqualification from the sport. However, Dr. Corrales’ study of boxers found signs of ocular trauma in 66 to 76 percent of asymptomatic boxers, and 21 to 58 percent of boxers have pronounced and vision-threatening ocular injuries, he said.

As you can see above, most injuries involve either trauma to the areas around the eye, or damage to the retina and its nerves. The note about damage around the outside of the eye is actually indicative of why you generally don't see as much direct trauma to the eye, namely that the orbit, the bones that surround the eye, help protect the eye itself from injury. An incoming blow will likely strike the orbit first, and the force of the blow will be stopped by the bones, or at least cushioned as they break under the force. Direct damage to the orb is more often seen in eye pokes, which are generally prevented in boxing by the padded gloves (one of the primary reasons the gloves were introduced, actually) and are illegal in most forms of organized MMA. Therefore, most injury is actually induced by repeated blunt trauma causing things like retinal detachment and TBI.

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