Participating in sports is a great way to stay healthy and active, but facial sports injuries are all too common, whether you’re playing softball, basketball, football, soccer, bicycling, or nearly any kind of physical activity. Even the use of popular standing electric scooters has led to increased emergency room visits for injuries such as fractures, head trauma, cuts, contusions, and sprains. UCLA researchers recently studied patients in the ER “with injuries associated with electric scooter use during a one-year period, with 10.8 percent of patients younger than 18 years and only 4.4 percent of riders documented to be wearing a helmet.”1
The best way to treat facial sports injuries is to prevent them. Here are some guidelines to help you ensure a safer athletic experience:
Even the most careful person can get hurt. Here are some common types of injuries:
Facial fracture—Getting hit in the upper face, by a ball or bat, for examples, can fracture the delicate bones around the sinuses, eye sockets, bridge of the nose, or cheek bones. A direct blow to the eye is very dangerous and may cause a fracture, as well as blurred or double vision. It’s important to pay attention to swelling because it may be masking a more serious injury. Applying ice packs and keeping the head elevated may reduce early swelling.
When your jaw or lower face is injured, it may change the way your mouth and teeth come together. To restore a normal bite, surgeries often can be performed from inside the mouth to prevent visible scarring of the face; and broken jaws can often be repaired without being wired shut for a long period. Your primary care physician or ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist, can explain the latest treatment techniques and your unique treatment options.
Soft tissue injuries—Bleeding underneath the skin causes bruising. Applying pressure, elevating the bruised area above the heart, and using an ice pack for the first 24 to 48 hours minimizes discoloration and swelling. After two days, a heat pack or hot water bottle may also help. Most of the swelling and bruising should disappear in one to two weeks.
External bleeding from cuts and scrapes can be stopped by immediately applying pressure with gauze or a clean cloth. When the bleeding is uncontrollable, you should go to the emergency room.
Scrapes should be washed with soap and water to remove any foreign material that could cause infection. Abrasions can often be treated at home by cleaning the area with three-percent hydrogen peroxide, and covering it with an antibiotic ointment or cream until the skin is healed. Cuts or lacerations, unless very small, should be examined by a physician as stitches may be necessary.
Bandages may be needed to protect the area while it heals. Residual scarring after six to 12 months can be discussed with a facial plastic surgeon.
Nasal injuries—The nose is one of the most injured areas on the face. Applying a cold compress and keeping the head higher than the rest of the body can help provide early treatment. Nosebleeds are common and usually short-lived. Often, they can be controlled by squeezing the nose with constant pressure for five to 10 minutes.
You should seek medical attention if you or the injured person has difficulty breathing, an obvious deformity of the nose, persistent bleeding, or deep cuts.
1 Trivedi TK, Liu C, Antonio ALM, et al. Injuries Associated With Standing Electric Scooter Use. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(1):e187381. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.7381
The information on ENThealth.org is provided solely for educational purposes and does not represent medical advice, nor is it a substitute for seeking professional medical care.