After a year in which COVID-19 put many of our favorite sporting activities on hold, millions of Americans are ready to suit up and hit the court, field, track, and ice to resume their favorite sports activities. This month, however, in recognition of National Facial Protection Month, we remind our patient community to please remember to protect yourself with proper facial protection gear.
Your face is one of the most vulnerable parts of your body, and unfortunately, injuries to the maxillofacial area (more commonly the jaw and face) are all too common. Aside from sports-related injuries, common reasons for facial injuries involve vehicle, domestic, and work-related accidents. Sports-related facial injuries account for eight percent of all facial soft tissue injuries, with approximately 11 to 40 percent of all sports injuries causing facial damage.
Some of the most common sports-related incidents that result in patients sitting in urgent care or emergency rooms include a ball striking the face and player-to-player contact. With the rise in popularity of sporting activities among youth and an increase in more dangerous athletic activities such as mixed martial arts (MMA), sports-related maxillofacial accidents have also increased.
Without proper facial protection, no matter how talented an athlete you are, you could be at risk of a fractured nose, zygoma (cheekbone), mandible (jawbone), or dental damage. At a minimum, you may need ice or stitches. At worst, you could require complex surgery, dental repairs, and a long recovery.
Too often, athletes—including kids and teens—neglect the use of protective gear because they find it uncomfortable, burdensome, they feel it’s overly cautious and unnecessary, or they dislike how it makes them look. Putting on a helmet, safety glasses, or a mouthguard takes only a second, and it could be the most critical step you can take to protect your face from permanent damage or scarring. If you regularly participate in athletics, whether competitively or recreationally, this month, commit to investing in the following crucial facial protective gear:
If you bike, cycle, ski, snow or skateboard, participate in motorsports, play baseball, football, hockey, rugby, or any other type of contact sport, you absolutely must protect your head with a helmet. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur annually in our country. A sports-related brain injury may result in a mild concussion or a devastating traumatic brain injury (TBI) with lasting effects. Protect your brain with a helmet.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that over 90 percent of all sports-related eye injuries can be prevented using appropriate protective eyewear. Clear or tinted goggles or sunglasses are available in varieties customized for nearly every type of sport.
In the 2011 Western Conference NHL final, Chicago Black Hawk’s Duncan Keith lost seven teeth when a puck struck him in the face. Hockey, understandably, results in many dental injuries, but dentists cajole that the simple decision to wear a mouthguard can help mitigate the need for cosmetic dentistry and repairs. Hockey players are not the only athletes who should protect their smiles. Basketball, football, and rugby players, wrestlers, and martial artists are just some of the athletes that need to protect their teeth from collisions with projectiles, player collisions, and falls.
If you need help choosing and sizing facial protective gear properly, visit a reputable sporting goods store and ask for help. What matters most is that you don’t lace up your skates, cleats, or sneakers until you properly gear up with protection for your face, head, and smile.