How Does Recoil Contribute to the Likelihood of a Torn Retina?

Bill DeHaan

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This prior week I experienced a retinal tear/separation in my right eye. I recognized what was happening, so I quickly sought doctor’s care and had laser surgery to repair the tear and “tack down” the retina. I am convinced there are multiple contributing factors including age (62), rather myopic vision (a stigmatism), perhaps trauma in the past from sports, …. And of-course countless rounds of recoil absorbed from shooting rifles and shotguns.

This experience has given me cause to ponder how much shooting may have contributed to my condition. More specifically, how it contributes. It occurs to me that there are at least two sources of recoil trauma to account for; the recoil energy transferred indirectly to the shooter’s head/eye via the recoil pad, and the energy transferred directly to the head/eye via the cheek weld on the stock comb. I am interested in investigating answers to the following questions;

1. What percentage of the total recoil energy is transferred to the shooter’s head via the butt pad and what percentage is via the stock comb ?

2. How much more it the transmitted energy for shooters using a heavy cheek weld, vs medium or no cheek pressure?

Has anyone seen any data or analysis on this topic? My search has yielded very little real info/data. I’d think it would be a simple task to collect that data provided a willing shooter (me), some accelerometers affixed to the skull, and data collected from rounds fired with a firm cheek weld, a light weld and no weld. I suspect the experiment would yield some interesting results.

It would also be interesting to survey the members to get a ROM on the percentage of readers who have experienced a similar injury, their age at the time of the injury, and the percentage of those eye injuries what were to the eye closest to the weapon.

If this analysis has not been done, it sounds like a good quarantine project!
 

35bore

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I have no personal experience, or know anyone who has experienced a torn retina from shooting. I have heard rumors of a 50BMG (PISTOL) made by Triple Action that some users have had horrible experiences with. A torn retina is one that I have heard about. A broken wrist was another. It's second, third and fourth hand knowledge of conversations that I've had. This was back in 2012 or 2013 if memory serves me right. Sorry for your injuries, but the only rifle I've ever shot that may have maimed on the recoil end was a 4 bore, but I'm confident it was just temporary damage, lol. Sure this isn't what you were looking for, but it's what I have so, take it for what its worth.
 

Newboomer

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Never had an eye injury from recoil but I sometimes get a headache behind my eyes after 15 0r 20 rounds of 375HH. Your questions would make for a very interesting experiment with results we all could use.
 
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Ironhorse375

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Bill,
I can speak directly to part of this.
I'm 62 now but 3 years ago I actually had one of my retinas detach . My history was of retinal tears secondary to trauma over 40 years prior that was repaired with a laser.
This time was quite different I required surgery and my chances were poor to recover eyesight in my left eye.
Had a great surgeon and he was amazed at how well ive done. I do have some minimal distortion in my vision but not very noticeable.
I like you tried to find research on amounts of recoil and effects on retinal disturbances.
My search revealed little.
After multiple discussions with my surgeon and monitoring ocular pressures and retinal exams his opinion is that I can handle recoil of heavy rifles.
We discussed recoil and felt recoil at length.
I'm sure I don't shoot as much as many here. I have had zero issues with eyesight.
I shoot 20 ga shotgun, a 375 H&H and a 416 rsm rigby.
I'm convinced the weight of the 375 and the 416 mitigate recoil to a great degree.
The a year and a half after my eye surgery I took my cape Buffalo, and am planning another when the world opens up again.
Its a personal decision on how you want to proceed. I'd suggest long discussion with your eye doctor.
If you find any data on this Id like to see it.
The only data on recoil that I could find had to do with post surgical intervention of your cervical spine.
Thats another story.
We are most fortunate to live in a country where medicine has advanced so far and therapeutics are readily available.
Best of luck in your research.
Ridgewalker might want to chime in on this one.
.
 

Mr. Zorg

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I experienced a partial retinal tear in my left / weaker eye in Nov 2018 in the upper left quadrant. It was not directly shooting related, diagnosis was age related decrease in tissue elasticity but earlier than average, I was 56 at that time.

Some tiny droplets of ocular fluid got behind the retinal wall, settled in the lower right quadrant, and were trapped when my torn retinal tissue was stitch welded back in place via laser surgery. This made everything from that eye have wavyness in both horizontal and vertical planes. My eye surgeon suggested treatment with the medication used for wet macular degeneration with no guarantees. I've been receiving monthly injections of that medication directly into my left eyeball for over a year now. It's been working, but slowly. My last appointment the frequency was reduced to every other month so I don't go back until July this time. We may have reached a point of diminishing returns but no way to tell without continuing treatment.

If this had occurred in my right / strong eye the impact would have been severe in terms of my independence. The tissues in my right eye are no younger than my left eye. I decided to draw a line on my recoil, and drew it at the typical .30-06 recoil figures. No specific super number crunching analysis vs people who shoot and experiencepartial retinal detachmentmuch less what recoil forces that subset was regularly subjected to.II have no idea where such data at that level of detail may exist, if at all. I set my limit generally at 15 ft-lbs +/- reading that was the general flinch threshold (with no recoil pad), plus using recoil pads for conservatism. I have a slip-on Limbsaver Airtech pad for my rifles without recoil pads, and .22RF is omitted from my personal choice using a recoil pad.

https://www.chuckhawks.com/recoil_table.htm

I've shelved my .30-06 for the time being, and have been using .25-06, 7mm-08, and 7X64mm, and have been happy with those. Will I have another such experience? Who knows. I'd also read people firing shotguns A LOT have a higher than average incidences of partial retinal detachment, and I've shelved my 12 gauge, and have a 20 gauge but I haven't fired a shotgun since my event. I may choose to never shoot a 12 gauge again. This is all my subjective response. It makes sense to me that both total force and the speed at which that force is applied makes sense both for felt recoil and potential effects, YMMV. That's where recoil pads come in, muzzle brakes for total force. My only braked rifle is a .264 Win Mag with recoil pad, and I did fire it some Spring 2019 before loaning it to a buddy on a hog hunting trip together without event.

Your question about forces at specific body locations not directly in contact with the buttplate / recoil pad sounds like a research project for someone in kinesiology and physics to write a paper about. I haven't come across anything with that level of detail. If you do, let me know.

I did discuss my choices with my eye surgeon. He agreed my approach was directionally rational, but I didn't even try to drill down into deeper levels of detail. He let me know up front my complications are a "one off" case both in his direct experience plus his knowledge base.
 
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chashardy

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Seems like there was another similar thread on AH several weeks ago. I have heard of repetitive recoil of big bore rifles contributing to head and eye injury, but don't remember exactly where I read or heard about it. Would be great if someone would do the study you suggest.
I think that incorrect gun mount would be a significant factor. I noticed just last week shooting my 416 Rigby at the range. I was fine on all of my shots except one that I did not get the gun firmly mounted and I felt it--mostly in my jaw.
 

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Bill DeHaan, very interested if you can find out more.
A bud who was in the Airforce and shot everything the service had to offer up to 50 BMG shoulder weapons wound up with a torn retina, but his doctor told him it was a matter of time if he kept shooting until it severed. He installed brakes on everything down to his 243 varmint rifle. 5 or so years later, he is still OK.

My experience was at 69 I was on the trampoline with my granddaughter when suddenly left eye sparks showed up. The Doc said I had a torn retina and not to get any traumas to the head for a while. The Doc said it was no big deal, only I had 24 hours to get it lasered if it severed. And where do you get that in Africa!
I went ahead and ordered my 375, but with a removable brake. Now almost 73 And hundreds of rounds each year (I’m a lousy shot) the brake has worked, but I’m deaf as my old bird dog! Just kidding! I occasionally shoot heavy recoiling guns without a brake (416s, 458 Lott, 50 BMG, 338 Lapua) but I’m still a bit nervous to do it in Africa having been told about the 24 hour laser repair issue. So far, so good.

Best of luck in your research! This obviously in interesting to me for personal reasons. I get beat up here on AH all the time about my sissy muzzle brake, but I can still see out of both eyes!(y)
 

Ironhorse375

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Thanks for finding and posting the link on recoil and retinas.
" guess I just didn't see.. that one.
 

Mr. Zorg

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Mine started when I accompanied my wife on a business trip to the city we last lived in, catching up with distant friends and change of scenery with an exit date before the real cold weather started.

I started getting like a whitish ghost glow in about 25% of my vision the day we left. Waking up the next day (a Saturday) that quadrant went black with a thin red corona and really wavy stuff in the clear area when I closed my good eye. No specialists available over the weekend so I went to my usual optometrist the next Monday morning when diagnosis was made with immediate referral to an eye surgeon. My wife drove us to the eye surgeon and I was worked in and explained my situation was certainly urgent but was never at real risk of much worse stuff over the course of the weekend.

Went through the whole injecting air directly into the eyeball with second injection to withdraw excess air to abate the severe nausea and pressure when I have migraines but this from mechanical pressure. Everything settled down after the holding my head in the "correct" position and all the air bubbles outgassed over Thanksgiving weekend. Monday after Thanksgiving I had the laser surgery. The waviness persisted so I was given a script for eyedrops (steroids IIRC) for a couple of months followed by additional imaging with no resolution of waviness.

The imaging revealed the trapped droplets of ocular fluid I mentioned and monthly injections of Lucentis began. It's pretty obvious those droplets got back there when it my retina initially tore because that was when the waviness started. No floaters, no flashing or sparks in my exquisitely personal experience. The surgeon agrees with my direction on recoil, after all my right eye isn't any younger than my left eye. Still sailing in AFAIK uncharted waters but in a much better condition. There's still some waviness with my right eye closed but it's 80+% reduced is my subjective evaluation and imaging hardly showed any retinal wall distortion last week. Next injection is July, then September, then more imaging. It's been working so slowly imaging frequency less than quarterly wouldn't make sense.

As a side effect I've overcome my flinch reflex with focused concentration. After the first couple of injections I had a bloodshot eye for over a week. I figured it was because of flinches on my part putting a side load on the needle while it was embedded in my eye, with the surgeon having a lot of experience and targeting straight in, straight out and holding the syringe appropriately. Now I'm so experienced with this I don't even vocalize how weird it feels to feel and see something looking kind of like an oil slick with short term pressure increase in my plus the needle.

So kind of like the eye surgeon in Minority Report telling Tom Cruise's character "Don't scratch!" my advice is try as hard as possible not to flinch if you wind up in a similar situation.
 
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Bill DeHaan

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Ok, I’m on it. Shopping for sensors and will be sending more rounds down range...... for the sake of science and mankind. ;-)
 

Brent in Az

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Aging eyeballs, is something that makes us more susceptible to it as well.

There have been some Top Fuel, and funny car drivers that have suffered from torn retinas. Mashing down the throttle on 10,000 horsepower, causes an instant G Force hit of up to 8' G.

Extreme rifle recoil can have the same effect.
 

Ironhorse375

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Ok, I’m on it. Shopping for sensors and will be sending more rounds down range...... for the sake of science and mankind. ;-)
I'm guessing this may be a job for Myth buster guys on TV.
Place the sensors on Buster.
Hook a 416 up to him see how he fares.
Damn. You could stuff him in a funny car too. Lol....
 

Mr. Zorg

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What are you gonna do to customize Buster? Implant harvested human eyes not used for transplants, from donors with and without underlying medical conditions, and somehow retain the integity of said eyeballs while firing boatloads of ammunition or put in a centrifuge test chamber?

Yeah I know I'm being a buzzkill.
 

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Never had an eye injury from recoil but I sometimes get a headache behind my eyes after 15 0r 20 rounds of 375HH. Your questions would make for a very interesting experiment with results we all could use.
After about twenty Rounds my 404Jeff would give me a headache
 

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