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

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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.

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