Philadelphia 76ers fans can’t wait for all-star Joel Embiid to return for the NBA playoffs after suffering an orbital fracture in a game March 28. But it’s said Embiid could suffer long-term damage to his vision if he absorbed a forceful blow to his fractured bone. What is an orbital fracture? It is a traumatic injury to the bone of the eye socket. These injuries are usually the result of blunt force trauma to the eye. Embiid collided with a teammate – working on the job. Blunt force trauma injuries can also occur in many other workplaces.

There are three main types of orbital fractures that can occur:

  1. Orbital rim fractures occur in the bony outer edges of the eye socket. The rim is the thickest part of the socket, so rim fractures require a great deal of force to occur. Car accidents are a primary cause of orbital rim fractures. Because of this, many other injuries are often sustained at the same time, including facial trauma and optic nerve damage.
  2. Blowout fractures occur when the rim stays intact, but a crack forms in the wafer thin bone that makes up the floor of the eye socket. The crack on the floor can pinch the eye muscles and nearby anatomy, preventing the eyeball from moving freely within the eye socket. These fractures are usually caused by an object larger than the eye opening, such as a baseball.
  3. Direct orbital floor fractures are rim fractures that have extended into the floor.

How common are orbital fractures?

Every year in the United States, about 2.5 million traumatic eye injuries occur. This includes orbital fractures as well as other types of eye injuries.

Males are about four times more likely than females to sustain an orbital fracture. Fractures are typically caused by a blunt object striking the eye socket, such as a rock, baseball, hammer or fist. While orbital fractures continue to occur during car accidents, stricter seatbelt laws and the advent of airbags have significantly reduced this chance.

What are the symptoms of orbital fractures?

Symptoms depend on both the type and seriousness of the orbital fracture. Symptoms include:

  • Blurry, decreased or double vision
  • Decreased ability to look left, right, up or down
  • Black and blue eyes
  • Swelling of the forehead or cheek
  • Flattened cheeks
  • Intense cheek pain when opening the mouth
  • Bulging or sunken eyeballs
  • Facial numbness on the side of the injury
  • Bloated skin under the eye
  • Blood in the white part of the eye

How are orbital fractures treated?

For smaller fractures, ice packs, antibiotics and decongestants are usually enough to allow the eye socket to heal on its own.

For larger, more complicated fractures, especially those that impede eye movement, an ophthalmologist may perform surgical procedures to repair the fracture. Embiid has been practicing wearing a face mask.

Source: Temple University Hospital