SPORTS INJURIES AND FACIAL TRAUMA: TIPS ON PREVENTION AND QUICK TREATMENT

Preventing sports injuries with mouthguards

‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ has been proven time and again. It’s why we look both ways before crossing the street and buckle up in our cars. Unfortunately, injuries cannot always be prevented and as our years of helping patients has shown us, some of the graver types of injury involve facial trauma.

Facial trauma is unique because it is localized on our most recognizable part of the body; in many ways, our faces are ourselves. Additionally, including the ears, our faces are home to receptors for all five of our senses. Of course, this is also where breathing, eating and drinking begin. However, the impacts of facial trauma also extend beyond the physical: a 2010 study highlighted a myriad of psychological issues such injuries can cause, including: body image issues, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, anxiety and depression, impacts on social life and general quality of life[1]

One of, if not the largest source of facial injuries come from playing sports, where approximations run as high as 40%.[2] Dr. Antoine Chehade and Dr. Marc Shenouda have acted as consultants to professional and university varsity sports teams (ice hockey, soccer, and football) for 20 years and can attest to that figure, having treated numerous cases of players getting accidentally hit in the mouth and having one or more teeth knocked out or even a mixed martial artist having his jaw broken.

What can you do if you get into an accident that compromises your teeth or jaw?

If you are unlucky enough to suffer an injury, you can make your treatment easier by having the right first aid supplies with you. Many recommended supplies take up little room in any small sports bag: ice packs, scissors, sterile cloth or pads, bandages, hydrogen peroxide.

Also keep in mind that swelling may be masking a more serious injury, so remember to quickly apply ice packs and keep the head elevated.

If a tooth has been knocked out, you must pick up the tooth or teeth fragments carefully. Beware to pick up the tooth by the enamel or crown side and not the root, and rinse the tooth with clean water- only if there is any debris. And, if you’d really like to remember at all times how to take care of a dental trauma at the scene of an accident, there’s actually an app for that: The Dental Trauma App.

In situations where expert medical attention is required, timeliness of response can be essential. Typically, you will go to an emergency room where you will be asked about your medical history and the incident. You will likely undergo a thorough medical examination (including areas other than your face/head) and may even have a computer tomography (CT) scan completed. Once diagnosed, the relevant specialists will be brought in to take care of your needs.

If your teeth have indeed been compromised by the injury, you must be seen by a specialist who will recommend further treatment options depending on the severity of the injury. The reason is simple: these injuries are often unique and require the expertise only a specialist can provide. As Dr. Chehade’s experience has shown him, “we often have to deal with particular situations and athletic performance requirements that force us to modify our treatment protocols to address the specific stresses of a particular sport or occupation.”

Prevention Tips

In many cases, the injuries were often preventable by simply wearing the proper protective equipment.

Here are three top tips on how to prevent trauma, (as initially published on the Academy for Sports Dentistry):

  • Wear a mouth Guard: an inexpensive, yet effective way to prevent trauma to your teeth and mouth. Dentists can actually custom build mouth guards that protect teeth while allowing for normal speech and breathing.
  • Wear a helmet: Although in many sports- such as skiing, skating or biking, wearing a helmet is not mandatory, it should become a must. Wearing a helmet will simply protect the most important part of our bodies’.
  • Keep a clear vision with protective eyewear: Getting hit in your eyes by a flying racquetball will guarantee you major pain and possibly an injury to your eyes. Wearing protective goggles or glasses will avoid such distress.

Much pain can be prevented by adapting a “keep sports safe” attitude in your sports routine. Of course, we cannot prevent all injuries. Being active through sports and other physical activities is simply too important to our health and wellbeing to be avoided for fear of injury. Luckily, with an ounce or two of care and prevention, we can go a long ways in preventing such injuries so in a fun and safe manner.

[1] “Psychological Issues in Acquired Facial Trauma,” accessed July 6, 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010784/.
[2] “Sports-Related Facial Trauma: Facial Injuries, Essential Anatomy of the Face, Evaluation of Facial Injury,” accessed July 6, 2015, http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1284288-overview.