Head & Face

Sports involving contact, the swinging of clubs, bats or rackets, and aggressive competition increase the risk of facial or head injuries, the most prevalent being broken bones, lacerations, contusions, concussions and loss of teeth.

Safety In Proper Protection

By Mike Haskew

Facial Injuries

Facial trauma, also called maxillofacial trauma, is any physical trauma to the face. Facial trauma can involve soft tissue injuries such as lacerations and bruises, or fractures of the facial bones such as nasal fractures and fractures or dislocation of the jaw, damage to teeth and eye injuries. Up to 40 percent of all sports related injuries involve the face, the most common being soft tissue injuries. Most occur due to some form of blunt trauma. Treatment depends on the location, type, and severity of the injury and can vary from first aid measures to surgery.

Mouth Injury

Up to 40 percent of dental injuries in older adolescents and adults occur while playing sports. Approximately 80 percent of dental injuries affect one or more of the front teeth, and damage to soft tissues – the tongue, lips, and inner cheeks – is also common.

Knocked out teeth can be treated. If a tooth is knocked out, hold it by the tope (crown) and quickly rinse it off with water – don’t scrub it. If possible, try to put the tooth back in place. Never force it into the socket. Do not transport the tooth dry as this will cause damage within minutes. If it’s not possible to reinsert the tooth in the socket before you get to the dentist, put the tooth in a small container of milk (or cup of water that contains a pinch of table salt, if milk is not available) or a product containing a cell growth medium, such as Save-a-Tooth. Try to have knocked out teeth re-implanted by a dentist within 30 minutes as this will offer the best chance for the tooth or teeth to survive.

Head Injury

Over 62,000 high school athletes experience concussions each year, and 34 percent of college football players have had at least one concussion. Athletes involved in a contact sport have a one in five chance of suffering a concussion each year of play. Those activities or sports that involve the highest number of head injuries among all age groups include cycling, football, and basketball. The most common head injury sustained among athletes is the concussion. Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that happens when the brain is jarred or shaken hard enough to bounce against the skull. This can be caused by a collision, a fall or being hit in the head by a piece of equipment (i.e. a bat). Athletes who have suffered a concussion may experience a loss of consciousness, headache, amnesia, confusion, and nausea among other symptoms. Medical treatment should be sought for anyone who experiences a head injury accompanied by any of these symptoms in order to treat the concussion appropriately and rule out any other serious injury, such as a subdural hematoma (collection of blood on the surface of the brain), or swelling that creates pressure on the brain.

Rest and time are the most beneficial treatments for concussions, and headache or other symptoms may be alleviated with over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers.

Head and facial injuries can be serious and athletes should take the recommended precautions to protect themselves. The best form of safety is proper protection. Athletes should always wear equipment and padding recommended for a sport, particularly helmets, facial guards and mouthpieces recommended for most aggressive or contact sports.