Researchers in the Christmas issue of The BMJ are warning to be cautious during this holiday season. Eye injuries from opening champagne bottles can be serious and easily avoided.
Despite initial concerns about over-cautiousness, Ethan Waisberg and colleagues explain that cork injuries pose an often overlooked and significant threat to eye health.
They explain that the pressure in a 750ml champagne or sparkling wine bottle is about three times higher than that of a normal car tire, with the potential to propel a cork up to 13 meters at speeds of up to 80 km/h.
In addition, a cork can travel from the bottle to the eye in less than 0.05 seconds, rendering the blink reflex ineffective. If a cork strikes an eye, it can lead to permanent blindness, retinal detachment, and lens dislocation, among other issues.
They refer to a 2022 case when cyclist Biniam Girmay opened a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate his victory in the Giro d’Italia. The cork struck his eye, leading him to withdraw from the next stage of competition.
Several studies have investigated the effects of cork-related eye injuries.
For example, a study published in 2005 found that champagne cork injuries accounted for 20% of bottle closure-related eye injuries in the United States and 71% in Hungary. While many people’s vision improved, the study found that in 26% of cases related to pressurized drinks, people remained legally blind.
And a study of 34 cases of eye injuries caused by corks and closures of sparkling wine bottles in Italy in 2009 revealed injuries such as bleeding, lens dislocation, and traumatic cataract formation. Complications included issues with pupil movement, separation of the iris, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
These studies underscore the need for awareness and prevention efforts, including warning signs and alternative packaging materials such as screw caps to protect people, the authors write.
As a result, they offer some practical tips to reduce the risk of eye injuries during toasts, in line with the guidelines of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
These include cooling the bottle before opening to reduce the pressure and speed of the cork, aligning the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from oneself and others, and counteracting the upward force of the cork by pressing down.
If an injury occurs, the authors recommend seeking immediate attention from an eye doctor to minimize the risk of vision impairment.
„Let’s raise a toast to an excellent new year, keeping the sparkling wine in our glasses and the sparkle in our eyes,“ they conclude.