One of the fastest rising sports in the United States is mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting. However, with this surge in popularity, a rise in facial injuries has taken place. A recent study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (J Sports Sci Med. 2006: 136-142) found the incidence of injury from competitive MMA fighting was around 30%. Of these injuries, most were facial lacerations (47.9%), as well as nasal fractures (10.6%) and ear injuries (1%)
In Dr. Shah’s practice, he has worked on MMA fighters with injuries ranging from nasal fracture, facial lacerations, and ear hematomas. Nasal fractures can be set in place soon after the injury, ideally within 14 days after the trauma. After a closed reduction procedure, many fighters can resume noncontact 2 weeks after having the nose set. Dr. Shah advises a full three to six month period before engaging in facial contact, but many MMA fighters do fight sooner than that. Dr. Shah does not recommend extensive nasal reconstructions on fighters who are still competitive, due to the complexity in future reconstructions. He advises patients to see him for immediate traumatic incidents and then “fix” their nose when they no longer fight.
If you’re an active fighter you’re apt to get hit in the face sooner than later. Facial lacerations should be repaired immediately if it is a clean wound. In contaminated lacerations, the incision may be delayed to prevent infection.
Ear hematomas are caused by blunt force trauma to the ear. They should also be drained, and can be drained in the office. Once drained, pressure is applied immediately to the ear to prevent reaccumulation of the hematoma. If an ear hematoma is not drained, it can create distortion of the ear, creating a “wrestler’s ear” or “cauliflower ear”.
With the surge in popularity in MMA, more and more facial injuries are occurring. Non-competitive fighters should consider wearing protective headgear to decrease the incidence of facial injury. Competitive fighters should consider wearing protective headgear during training sessions. While these injuries are not life threatening, they can impact the appearance and function of the face…and who wants that?