St Helens scrum-half Matty Smith has revealed he was fortunate not to lose his vision after an accidental poke in the eye caused severe complications.
Smith was struck by Jon Wilkin as his team-mate attempted to tackle an opponent in the Super League match against Leeds Rhinos in June.
It quickly became apparent that the former Wigan player, who suffered a broken leg in a pre-season friendly in February, had been seriously hurt during the freak incident at Headingley.
"The doctors told me I was actually lucky not to lose my sight, which was a really sobering thing to hear," Smith told the Guardian.
"The surgeons who operated on me did an absolutely fantastic job and thankfully everything's OK because it really wasn't great to deal with when it all happened."
Remarkably, Smith is already playing again, having made his comeback in a 26-12 win away to leaders Castleford Tigers last Thursday.
"For me, I've been lucky to get back the way I have done," he said.
"It's still not quite right and it'll take up to six months to improve but it feels good. I can see and it's not a major problem."
Rugby league players are renowned for their toughness, but the gory details of Smith's injury - and the expert work required to repair the damage - are enough to make even the hardiest veterans of the game squeamish.
"I lacerated my eyelid; my tear duct and eyeball actually came away from the corner of the socket – it sounds gruesome and I guess it was," he said.
"My pupil moved to the corner of my eye and all the blood came through behind my eye, which is why it looked so horrific.
"Amazingly I was told the surgeons actually stitched my eyeball back together – I have no idea how you do something like that.
"That all happened quickly and then from there I went to an eyelid specialist and got a second operation two days later. Thankfully I was in good hands."