The birds are chirping, green grass is sprouting and a new crop of spring sports injuries will soon arrive at hospitals across Iowa. Dr. George Phillips, a sports medicine specialist at the University of Iowa, says baseball and bicycling are the two biggest “danger” areas when it comes to head injuries. Almost 200,000 people nationwide sustain serious facial injuries every year from baseball and bicycle accidents. “In terms of bicycle accidents, helmets remain the number-one method of preventing all injuries to the face and the head,” Phillips says. “In baseball, we’re trying to advocate the use of face guards that attach to the helmet. Mouthguards are also a simple technique to try to prevent some injuries for baseball as well as other contact sports like football or wrestling.” Phillips, who’s a professor of clinical pediatrics at the U-of-I, says all bicyclists should wear helmets, no matter what distance or speed they’ll be going. He says new helmets can make you look like Lance Armstrong, if that’s what you want. They’re useful for the high-performance rider but most bicyclists don’t need to go with the windswept look and could opt for the less expensive rounded hat-like helmet. Just make sure, he says, the helmet is approved and certified safe. For most contact sports, Phillips says mouthpieces are becoming more widely used. “They’re a part of sport protective gear that is not always thought about. They do a great job of protecting the teeth and of decreasing the risk of injury to other structures in the mouth as well as surgeries to repair that, which can be very costly,” he says. April is National Facial Protection Month, by the way.
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