Post facial trauma, how much time before a black eye appears?

Given the nature of the question, I’ve placed it here rather than in GQ. I’m perfectly OK with educated guesses and personal experiences. With that being said, to the extent that a GQ answer is possible, please share.

I’ve recently rewatched the movie “Knives Out”. It’s an engaging, twisty little murder mystery with a magnificent cast, well worth your time if you have not seen it. In the final scene of the film, one of the characters is seen sporting a black eye. Given the timeline of the film, there could not have been more than a couple of hours post trauma before we see this person’s new shiner.

In my highly limited experience, this is not a realistic timeline. In all three cases in my personal black eye history, it required nearly a full day post-trauma before significant discoloration presented. Maybe I’m the outlier. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. There’s got to be a hundred different variables governing the speed of and spread of black eye formation.

What are your experiences with facial trauma and black eyes? Assuming no facial bone fractures or other serious injuries, how quickly are they likely to become obvious?

Minutes, maybe even seconds depending on the details of the trauma. Following a very brief run in with a crow bar I looked like Mike Tyson had been practicing left hooks on my face just minutes later. The crow bar caught that sweet spot right on my cheekbone that caused a ton of blood vessels to rupture all at once. I didn’t even know how bad it was right away because it didn’t hurt that much, but then I realized blood was dripping out of my nose. Luckily X-rays showed no fractures.

I think more often black eyes come from a hard blow spread over more area and it takes more time for the discoloration to be apparent. In my experience 24 hours is a very long time for a bruise to develop, although maybe when you wake up in the morning it looks a lot worse than when you went to bed.

You had pretty weak black eyes. (and that’s a good thing)

If you take a really good crack to the nose you’ll have double black eyes before you can get to a mirror. They get darker over time after the initial injury. If you developed a black eye over the course of a day, it probably started pretty yellow and deep and just didn’t show for a while.

I don’t recall seeing much bruising when watching MMA, boxing and other combat sports post-fight interviews. There’s often swelling and redness from inflammation but it seems black eyes and other deep bruising discoloration takes some time to set in.

I had one from a softball to the eyebrow, which split my brow, requiring stitches. I didn’t really get a full black eye until the next morning (maybe during the night, though). I think that was because it came from the blood settling under my eye due to gravity. There was a big bump over my brow.

I also had one from catching a hard shot on goal in a soccer game directly to my eye. I went down, and the teammates who came to offer me a hand immediately commented on my black eye. The shot hit my eyelid and broke blood vessels there and over my cheekbone. My eyelid had a huge bump turning purple within seconds.

I presume there are cases in between. However, I doubt that the person would not be visibly injured during the intervening hours, if that would matter to the plot. In my experience, anyway, the delayed bruise usually comes from having a big bump higher up, which drains down. Same thing happens with sprained ankles and broken toes. The bruise often doesn’t line up with the injury.

It depends on the degree of trauma. Getting hit by a car, getting hit by a squash ball, getting hit by a fist, falling and a glancing blow from a squirmy toddler do not usually cause the same amount of trauma.

A bruise is bleeding “beneath” the skin. The blood may collect and coagulate to form a lump called a hematoma. An abrasion is damage to the superficial skin surface. A contusion is where there is both superficial damage and bleeding.

If there are broken bones or damage to blood vessels, bleeding will be more rapid and development may be within seconds to minutes. For a standard “Saturday night special” black eye where the damage is to the skin around the eye, within minutes to hours. A bruise with sharp edges that is purple or black was likely inflicted within 48h. Other colours often specify >48h and can persist for several weeks.