There is evidence that eye protection, mouth guards, helmets, and face guards are effective in reducing the risk of facial injury; however, such safety practices are not adopted universally by all athletes playing high risk sports. Underlying beliefs about risk perception, comfort, ineffectiveness, utility, and a lack of awareness or enforcement have been identified as reasons people may not adopt preventive measures. There are several high-risk sports that have not mandated or do not enforce use of protective equipment. Valid evidence can assist with addressing the resistance caused by prevailing beliefs and could be essential in influencing rule changes.
Facial injuries can pose a large health burden for athletes, potentially resulting in time loss and surgery. This article reviews the incidence, common mechanisms, and risk factors of facial injuries in several sports globally. Estimates of facial injury rates are complicated by a lack of, or inconsistent, reporting on specific types of injury. Much of the epidemiologic literature is based on hospital-based injury surveillance and there is a paucity of literature examining sport-specific risk factors. Future research should focus on prospective injury surveillance methodologies with consistent injury definitions examining risk factors and the effectiveness of facial injury prevention efforts.