National Facial Protection Month and Shielding Yourself with Proper Sports Gear

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.

Common Causes of Facial Injuries

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.

Possible Maxillofacial Injuries Caused by Sports

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.

The Importance of Wearing Proper Protective Facial Gear During Athletics

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:

Helmets

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.

Protective Eyewear

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.

Mouth Guards

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.

Identify the Signs of Stress and Healthy Ways to Cope

Every day you’re hustling. You run from work to homeschooling your kids, to volunteer work, to spin class, to the grocery store, and before you know it, the day has ended, you’re crashing in bed and sleeping just long enough so that you have sufficient energy to do it all again the next day. It’s not stress; it’s just the demands of everyday life, right?

Stress comes in a wide variety of formats—from the stress that results from highly traumatizing life experiences, such as war, the death of a loved one, being in a natural disaster or dangerous event, to the emotional stress that comes from unhealthy relationships to the pressure that builds after relentlessly grinding day after day to complete work and family responsibilities. This April, we recognize stress awareness month as a time to reflect on the short- and long-term detrimental health effects that stress can cause on the mind and body. Even more importantly, it is time to commit to identifying the causes of stress in your life and put a plan in place to make the lifestyle changes needed to minimize stress.

What Stress Can Do to Your Body

You may be a resilient, competent person. Still, it doesn’t mean that even if you are succeeding in work and family responsibilities despite a hectic schedule that you’re not putting your mind and body at risk of the adverse effects of stress. Stress can cause such mental and physical risk factors as:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Irrational bouts of anger
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Disinterest in hobbies or once loved activities or social withdrawal
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Spending less time exercising
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Extreme fatigue and loss of mental clarity
  • Feeling overwhelmed emotionally
  • Change in sex drive

What to Do if You are Suffering from Too Much Stress

If you identify with the symptoms above, it may be time to talk to your doctor or a qualified mental health expert about managing your stress healthily. Also, embrace these coping strategies:

Identify Your Support Network

Make a mental list of the people you can turn to for help and support in your life. Consider individuals in every realm of your life, such as family, friends, co-workers, and your care team. The individuals that you identify should be people that you can reach out to not just for conversation but to help alleviate stress factors in your life. For example, which co-worker could you ask to share the burden of a long-term project? Is there a neighbor who could help you shuttle your kids to their athletic practices? Should you have a conversation with your partner about better distributing household chores?

Prioritize Your Sleep

Aim for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night—including weekends. With proper rest, you’ll feel rejuvenated every morning and can tackle your day with clarity and focus. Depending on what time you need to wake up every day, calculate what time you need to be asleep to catch your eight hours of ZZZs. Give yourself adequate time before lights out to start winding down. During this restful period, turn off all electronic devices, including your television, tablet, and smartphone. Their screens’ glows could be disrupting your ability to settle in and fall asleep at a reasonable time.

Recommit to Your Passions

One of the most effective ways to combat stress is to make time for activities that bring you joy and a sense of personal accomplishment. If you’re spending all of your days and nights on work or family responsibilities, you could put yourself at risk of burnout. It may feel like you’re neglecting your other obligations, but it’s one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Commit to enrolling in a yoga class, picking your guitar back up, tending to your garden regularly, or investing at least a few hours weekly to a hobby or passion.

If you are still struggling to cope with stress factors in your life after trying these three strategies, talk to your doctor. They can help you manage the factors and triggers in your life that are impacting your health.