Yesterday, I fielded a lot of questions about what happens to the eye when a puck hits it. Marc Staal's eye injury from Tuesday night was on everyone's mind.
Unfortunately, puck injuries to the eye or around the eye are common and no stranger to the NHL Carolina Hurricanes. As their eye doctor from the time the Hartford Whalers moved to Raleigh in 1997, I've seen too many. (Really, one is too many!) I've even been called into the visitors dressing room several times to assess those types of eye injuries.
Glen Wesley took a puck to the eye in 2000 and was out for two games.
Jeff O'Neill got hit with a puck in his right eye during game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Toronto in 2002 where he ended up scoring the winning goal with an almost shut swollen black eye. (Cudos to Pete Friesen's work on keeping the swelling down)
These are just two of the more public ones.
Ron Francis became one of the first players to wear a visor due to a puck in his eye early in his career. Past head coach Paul Maurice lost vision in an eye due to an eye injury as did Vice President and Assistant GM Jason Karmanos (while playing as a Raleigh Ice Cap)
The great thing about the design of the body is that the eyes sit in a very protected room of bone known as the orbit. Many times, the bones save the eye. Direct hits to the eyeball itself create the most problems (I dedicated a whole chapter to this in my book, See To Play)
So, what type of injuries happen? I'll start with the most common and move down to the least.
1. Bruised eyelid or Black eye- The injury is more to the outside of the eye and the boney area protected the eye.
2. Bruised eyeball (iritis) This is very common and steroids have to be used to help it clear. This takes 48 hours to a week to heal.
3. Blood in eyeball- the colored part of the eye (iris) rips and bleeds inside the eye. Very common and takes 48 hours to a week to heal.
4. Broken Bone- The orbit, or bones around the eye, can break. This can take 6-8 weeks to heal. Sometimes surgery has to occur to build the eye back up because the floor broke. Sometimes the wall near the sinus breaks as well.
5. Bruised retina- The back of the eye becomes swollen. This usually takes over a week to heal. Scarring and permanent vision can be lost.
Injuries due to the a stick hitting the eye can be similar, but many times the cornea (the front of the eyeball) is cut.
As eye doctors, we're trained to be ready for these types of injuries. Fast treatment with the tools and medicine we have today can usually allow fast and full recovery. There may be some problems with glaucoma and cataracts later on down the line.
These guys could play with visors and really limit eye injury. They could also play in those great big sumo wrestling outfits and be completely protected from body injury.
The debate rages on.
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