Most Memorable Injury of My Career

Last week we shared some of the most memorable injuries of athletic trainer’s careers. Some were graphic, many had to do with a first time experience, and several will haunt my nightmares for years to come.

As athletic trainers, we all have those injuries that stick with us. Whether gruesome, unique, baffling, or because we would do something different, we all have stories.

You all were so kind to share yours, I want share one of mine:

I was working a Friday night basketball game at a small division I university in a pretty rural area.

Midway through the second half there was a battle for a rebound under our basket. Bodies were all over the floor and I had a perfect view of one of our players getting an elbow square to the mouth.

Whistle blows.

With their hands over their face, they looked at me, eyes wide. I grab my towel ready for blood but see none.

“My tooth! I lost my tooth!”

Kind of…but not entirely true. 

Closer inspection revealed something I had never seen before. (Or since.)

The top two front teeth—yes, both of them—had been pushed back, but not come out.

Tooth luxation.

I looked up into the stands where the team physician was seated and waved them down, then took the patient into a small ATR we had set up off the locker room.

I struggled to settle on the correct course of action. I had managed tooth fractures and complete displacements before, but this was a new one.

The nearest emergency dentist was over an hour away and it was almost 9:00pm on a Friday.

You know how there are those athletes that you just know are going directly to plastics if they get a facial wound? Whose parents have expressly stated that anything that could slightly alter physical appearance are to be handled with utmost care?

This was one of those athletes. And now their teeth were pointing backwards.

As I was assessing the patient, keeping them calm, my team physician and another AT were trying to track down a dental office that might be, for some reason, open on a Friday night. 

Then there was a knock on the door.

It was the dad of a player on the opposing team. 

“I’m so and so, DDS, do you need my help?”

Like many athletic trainers, I am not a fan of people coming from the stands offering their assistance. 

However, this time I very, very happily made an exception.

I cleared it with our team physician and got the consent of the patient to be evaluated/treated and then I learned something new.

Did you know luxated teeth can be reduced similarly to dislocated joints? I didn’t. (But I do now!)

The dentist put on gloves and reached into the patient’s mouth while they were supine.

“You might feel some pressure.”

I heard *pop* *pop* *pop* as he worked on the first tooth. Then two more pops…and they were LOUD! Who knew a tooth could be so loud? Over ten years later that sound sticks with me, and so does the force it took.

The other thing that sticks with me is how fortunate the circumstances were. How often is there a dentist in the stands? 

For those of you wondering, the patient outcome was fantastic. The next day they had an office visit and wore an Invisalign style splint for the following 6 weeks to help with the healing. healing. Otherwise, he was good to go.

And he wore a mouthguard for the rest of his career as well. 

Josh Beard, MA, ATC