Facial Injuries Due to Sports Related Activies

Steven H. Dayan, MD
Article by
Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon

Facial injuries due to sports related activities can have devastating functional and cosmetic consequences, especially to young children.

In a recent scientific study, the two most common sports associated with facial fractures were baseball and softball. Because of baseball’s 6 million participants, it’s not surprising there is a high incidence of facial injuries. However, it’s astonishing that softball is the single leading sport activity responsible for facial fractures and has 3 times more facial fractures than found in baseball. The majority of these fractures are to the nose, likely reflecting the greater recreational appeal of softball. Additionally, the increased mass and volume of a softball striking the face results in greater injuries to the facial and nasal bones.

The nose, the leading structure on the face, is the most commonly fractured facial bone. Unfortunately, most nasal fractures are overlooked or neglected, leading to a progressive blockage of nasal breathing and a crooked nasal deformity. Children in particular may suffer internal damage with minimal external symptoms. If an internal nasal septal injury is not properly identified and treated it can lead to infection, possible abscess and even complete nasal collapse. X-rays of the nose offer limited or no clinical value on treatment of nasal injury. You’re better served seeking out an experienced and competent nasal physician. Most nasal injuries are benign and of no consequence; however, in the event of a nasal or septal fracture early attention is key to avoiding future problems.

The best way to avoid injury is through prevention. Today, a clear face guard mask can be secured to a baseball helmet. Little league organizations mandating such a mask report a decrease in facial injuries (1). In fact, the little leaguers accept the face guard and actually appreciate its “look.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission has determined that batting helmets equipped with these clear face guards may prevent, reduce or lessen the severity of 3900 facial injuries per year. 

By protecting the developing pediatric face, potential benefits far outweigh the perceived inconveniences and monetary costs. Communities sponsoring organized baseball and softball leagues should consider adoption of a protective face mask gear policy.

 

1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Release study of protective equipment for baseball #96-140. June 1996.