Treating and Preventing Facial Injury

Play Hard

Play Hard. Play Safe. Prevent Facial Injury.

Did you know that most sports-related facial fractures among children occur when they’re trying to catch a baseball or softball? According to new research, these injuries are relatively common, and they can be serious. Study Leader Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt and colleagues at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh examined how and when facial fractures occur in various sports. The data will hopefully allow for targeted and/or sport-specific craniofacial fracture injury prevention strategies.

The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, involved 167 children and teens treated in the emergency room for a sports-related fracture between the years 2000 and 2005. About 11% of facial fractures were sports-related. Of the children treated for facial fractures:

  • 80% were boys
  • Nearly 66% were between 12 and 15 years old
  • 40% of injuries were broken noses
  • 34% of injuries were fractures around the eye
  • 31% were skull fractures
  • 10% of the cases occurred while playing basketball and football (collisions with another player accounted for 24.5% of injuries)
  • 19% of injuries were due to falls
  • All facial fractures from skiing and snowboarding, and most from skateboarding occurred in children who were not wearing helmets
  • Most horseback riding fractures were the result of being kicked by a horse


Prevention Is Key

Avoiding injury is always best. The study authors said their findings could help prevent future injuries in children. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons advocate the use of safety gear for everyone who participates in athletic pursuits at any level. You don’t have to play at the professional level to sustain a serious head injury.

  • Football: Helmets with face guards and mouth guards should be worn.
  • Baseball: A catcher should always wear a mask. Batting helmets can also be worn while fielding.
  • Ice Hockey: Many ice hockey players are beginning to wear cage-like face guards attached to their helmets. These are superior to the hard plastic face masks worn by some goalies, as the face guard and the helmet take the pressure of a blow instead of the face. For extra protection, both face and mouth guards — including external mouth guards made of hard plastic and secured with straps — can be worn.
  • Wrestling: More and more high school athletic associations require wrestlers to wear head gear. A strap with a chin cup holds the gear in place and helps steady the jaw.
  • Boxing: Mouth guards are mandatory in this sport. A new pacifier-like mouth guard for boxers has been designed with a thicker front, including air holes to aid breathing.
  • Lacrosse: Hard plastic helmets resembling baseball batting helmets, with wire cage face masks, are manufactured for this sport.
  • Field Hockey: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons recommend that athletes participating in this sport wear mouth guards. Goalies can receive extra protection by wearing Lacrosse helmets.
  • Soccer: Soccer players should wear mouth guards for protection. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons advise goalies to also wear helmets.
  • Biking: All riders should wear bike helmets to protect their heads.
  • Scooters and Skateboarders: Bike helmets are recommended for those who ride two-wheeled scooters and skateboards.
  • Skiing and Snowboarding: Many safety conscious participants to wear lightweight ski helmets that will protect the maxillofacial area in the event of a fall or crash.
  • Horseback Riding: A helmet and mouth guard are recommended for horseback riding, particularly if the rider is traveling cross-country or plans to jump the horse.
  • Basketball, Water Polo, Handball, Rugby, Karate, Judo, and Gymnastics: Participants in these sports should be fitted with mouth guards.


Don’t Treat Any Facial Injury Lightly

While not all facial injuries are extensive, they are all complex, since they affect an area of the body that is critical to breathing, eating, speaking, and seeing. In the unfortunate event that you or a child should sustain a facial fracture while playing a sport, take immediate action. If a person is unconscious, disoriented, nauseated, dizzy or otherwise incapacitated, call 911 immediately. Do not attempt to move the individual yourself. If these symptoms are not present but the injury is severe or you are uncertain about its severity, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons, like Dr. McGann, are the surgical specialists of the dental profession, are specifically trained to repair injuries to the mouth, face and jaws. Call or email McGann Facial Design today with questions or concerns.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons has more about treating and preventing facial injuries.

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