Injuries to the Face and Head: When to Seek Medical Treatment

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Whether it's you or your kids who are active in sports — or just active in general — it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected, especially since warmer weather ushers in what is known as “trauma season,” and the likelihood increases that any of us can experience anything from a fall to a head-butt that can damage the nose and other facial bone structures.

Case in point: A couple of summers ago, an 11-year-old boy and another child knocked heads together in a bouncy house in Warwick, NY. The day after it happened, he arrived for treatment at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. This child had originally been diagnosed with a simple concussion, but when I saw his CT scan, it was obvious that the bone around the boy’s eye had broken and muscle had become trapped. Left unrepaired, the muscle, which was causing the boy’s eyes to cross, could have lost blood supply, died, and left him with permanent vision and/or functional eye damage. Action taken by his concerned parents, however, prevented any negative outcome. Within three weeks after surgery, my patient was medically cleared to get back in the game with tennis, soccer, basketball, and swimming.

Should you be overly worried about the “What Ifs” this summer? No, but it’s always a good idea to know what to do if something should happen to you, your child, or one of their friends. Whether it’s routine play or sports, those of us who are active (especially kids)  frequently get wounds and minor cuts to the face. Many of these may only need a little first aid treatment, which can be handled at home. Here’s when you should be concerned and seek out medical treatment:

  • If the injury involves the eyes or eyelids
  • If a ball makes contact with the nose 
  • If there is excess pain or the possibility of a fractured or broken facial bone or scull injury
  • In the case of a deep or long (1/2 inch or longer) wound
  • In the case of a puncture wound or wound made with a dirty or rusty object
  • If bleeding is heavy and does not stop after 5 minutes of direct pressure
  • If a wound shows signs of infection (redness, swelling, drainage)
If you find yourself in a situation where someone's been hit, bumped, or otherwise, my best advice is this: Be sure he or she is seen by a facial reconstructive surgeon as soon as possible for a treatment evaluation. When it comes to facial injuries, the sooner you receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment options, the more likely you are to have the least downtime and best possible results.


Article by
Shrewsbury Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon