Eye injuries are a common occurrence in mixed martial arts (MMA) due to the frequency and diversity of head attacks, the size of the gloves used, and the fact that the fingers are uncovered, leading to the potential for illegal eye pokes.

This study sought to investigate the occurrence and characteristics of eye injuries in mixed martial arts. The researchers analysed all professional MMA event data from the Nevada state athletic commission between 2001 and 2020. 

2208 fights were recorded from 256 events. Eye injuries were reported in 73% of events for a total of 369 eye injuries. The rate of eye injuries for 100 fighters ranged from between 2.6 and 12.2 depending on the year. The most injuries were eyebrow and eyelid lacerations (43%), eye lacerations (27%) and orbital fractures (17%). 

62.8% of fighters sustaining the eye injury lost their match, with a higher proportion of these being in the case of orbital fractures. 

57 of the fighters sustaining these injuries were recommended by the ringside physician to seek further ophthalmology clearance following the match, and 43 were given no-contact recommendations, ranging between 3 and 5 weeks. Retinal injuries required longer no-contact times.

This information is useful in raising awareness around eye injuries and hopefully leading to standardisation of recommended non-contact times and ongoing management

#thescienceofstriking #eyes #eyeinjuries #mma #ufc #onefc #bellator #mma #mixedmartialarts #eyepokes #facialfractures #traumaticbraininjury #tbi #combatsports

Fliotsos, Michael J., Donovan Stephen Reed, Gregory Giles, Adam HH Altman, Joseph A. Santamaria, Sidra Zafar, Darrel K. Carlton et al. “Prevalence, patterns, and characteristics of eye injuries in professional mixed martial arts.” Clinical Ophthalmology (Auckland, NZ) 15 (2021): 2759.

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