SHORT REVIEW: Ocular Injury Model in Boxing




Due to the nature of boxing and other combat sports, structural damage to the facial region, including the eyes, is common. Because of this, it is thought that boxing poses a high risk of altered visual acuity. Whilst epidemiological studies have investigated the occurrence of facial and eye injuries, there have not yet been any studies recreating the biomechanics of punching utilizing a facial model. 


Models were created using a structured symmetry mesh, based off of CT/MRI recreation of the human face. A deformable glove model was used to deliver punches at a speed, force, and contact angle designed to simulate a strong hook punch to the frontal (at an angle of 0 degrees) and zygomatic (at an angle of 20 degrees) bones.


The force used for this study was significantly less than the force required to cause bony failure to the frontal and zygomatic bones of the skull. All areas of the eye were stressed to a much greater degree with frontal impact compared to zygomatic impact. 

The structures of the eye most likely to be impacted by punch force were the orbital fat (the container of the eye globe), the optic nerve, and the retina-vitreous body interface.

Stress to the iris, lens and ciliary body was in the lateral circumference, which may cause damage to the ocular muscles and impair eye function. 

Stress to the cornea, with impact to both areas, was mainly in the lateral circumference and the aqueous body, and was not sufficient to cause significant damage. 


Whilst this study using a 3D biomechanical model contributes to our understanding of the impact of punching force to specific anatomical structures around the eye, care needs to be taken in extrapolating these findings to to a live dynamic human model, whilst is likely to respond to trauma in a much more complicated fashion. 

About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.

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By Sam Gilbert