Most sports-related facial fractures among children occur when they're trying to catch a baseball or softball, according to new research. These injuries are relatively common, and they can be serious.
The new study examined how and when facial fractures occur in various sports. "These data may allow targeted or sport-specific craniofacial fracture injury prevention strategies," wrote study leader Dr Lorelei Grunwaldt and colleagues at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
The study, published in the June issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, involved 167 children and teens treated in the emergency room for a sports-related fracture between 2000 and 2005. About 11% of facial fractures were sports-related, according to a journal news release.
Of the children treated for facial fractures, roughly 80% were boys. Nearly two-thirds were between 12 and 15 years old. 40% of injuries were broken noses, 34% were fractures around the eye and 31% were skull fractures.
45% of the children were admitted to the hospital for their injuries. Of these, 15% were sent to the intensive-care unit. Roughly 10% of the children lost consciousness and 4% had more significant injuries considered a level-one trauma (the worst trauma), including an unstable airway or spinal cord injury.
Many of the children were injured by a ball while they were attempting to catch it and 44% of the fractures involved baseball and softball. Most often, players were inured while attempting to field a line drive.
Meanwhile, only 10% of the cases occurred while playing basketball and football. Fractures sustained during these two sports, as well as most in soccer, occurred when players collided. Collisions with another player accounted for 24.5% of injuries, the study showed.
Falls also were to blame for about 19% of injuries. Other patterns of fractures were seen in specific sports. For instance, golf injuries most often happened at home when a club struck a child.
All facial fractures from skiing and snowboarding and most from skateboarding occurred in children who were not wearing helmets. Most horseback riding fractures were the result of being kicked by a horse. Although horseback riding and skateboarding injuries occurred less frequently, they were more serious. Of these, 29% of horseback riding injuries and 14% of skateboarding injuries were classified as a level-one trauma.
Preventing future injuries
The study authors said their findings could help prevent future injuries in children. For instance, skateboarders, skiers and snowboarders should always wear helmets to reduce their risk for fracture. Nasal protectors can also prevent some fractures for basketball and soccer players. Softer, low-impact balls also have been recommended for youth baseball and softball. The researchers added that more protective equipment may be beneficial for outfielders playing baseball or softball.
"Our strongest recommendation for injury prevention may be further consideration of face protective equipment for players fielding in baseball and softball," the researchers wrote.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons has more about treating and preventing facial injuries.