A study was designed to determine how soon an athlete who undergoes rigid fixation of a facial fracture can return to full competition. The impact resistance of a rigidly fixated malar complex fracture was studied and compared with that of an intact malar complex. Twelve fresh human cadaver heads were used. A custom-designed impact device was used to deliver a blow of a specific energy to each intact malar complex. The subsequent fractures were rigidly fixated at three points using titanium miniplates and screws. A second impact of identical energy was delivered. The forces generated and the subsequent displacement of hard and soft tissues were recorded after each impact. It was concluded from this study that an impact to a rigidly fixated malar complex fracture produced less force and greater displacement of hard and soft tissues than an impact of identical energy to an intact malar complex. The potential for sustaining more severe maxillofacial injuries after an initial facial fracture should be seriously considered. The results suggest that sufficient time should be allowed for the bony healing of a facial fracture to occur, even after rigid fixation, before an athlete can resume full contact activities.
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