Facial injuries in the National Basketball Association: 2013-14 through 2017-18

Ens Molly Kuenstler, Jeffrey C. Leggit*, Sorana Raiciulescu, Helen Zhang, Barry P. Boden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe the epidemiology, mechanisms, treatment, and disability for facial injuries in National Basketball Association (NBA) athletes. Methods: This was a retrospective descriptive epidemiological chart review using NBA Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system. Responses to injuries reported in games, practices, and other activities were used for all data analysis, except for game incidence rates. Incidence rates were calculated by the game-related facial injury incidence per total athlete exposure (player-games). Results: There were 440 facial injuries among 263 athletes during the 5 NBA seasons with an overall single-season risk of 12.6% and a game incidence of 2.4 per 1000 athlete-exposures (95% CI: 2.18–2.68). The majority of injuries were lacerations (n = 159, 36.1%), contusions (n = 99, 22.5%), or fractures (n = 67, 15.2%), with ocular (n = 163, 37.0%) being the most commonly injured location. Sixty (13.6%) injuries resulted in at least one NBA game missed (224 cumulative player-games) with ocular injuries resulting in the most cumulative games missed (n = 167, 74.6%). Nasal fractures (n = 39, 58.2%) were the most common fracture location followed by ocular fractures (n = 12, 17.9%) but were less likely to lead to games missed (median = 1, IRQ: 1–3) than ocular (median = 7, IQR: 2–10) fractures. Conclusions: An average of one in eight NBA players sustained a facial injury each season with ocular injuries being the most common location. While most facial injuries are minor, serious injuries, especially ocular fractures, can result in games missed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-166
Number of pages7
JournalPhysician and Sportsmedicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Facial injury
  • NBA
  • National basketball association
  • fracture
  • ocular injury


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