Facial injuries are not common in golfers. Most facial and head injuries are the result of being struck by a stray golf ball or by the head of a club used by a fellow golfer during the swing. This mechanism has the potential to cause a great amount of injury. Due to the size of the ball and its potential speed, it can cause considerable damage to the region that it hits (
According to the Golf Society of Great Britain, the golf ball is compressed against the club during the hit. Simultaneously the shaft on the club bends, which creates elastic kinetic energy. During the ball's flight, mechanical kinetic energy transfer continues, and makes the ball rise. Then the energy is transferred to the object that it eventually impacts (
Under the rules of golf, a golf ball has a mass no more than 1.620 oz (45.93 g), and has a diameter not less than 1.680 in (42.67 mm) (
According to Newton’s third law, the impulse (the force multiplied by the time for which the force is applied; joules) will cause the golf ball to speed up or slow down. For example, if the club applies a force of 9000 N for 0.0005 seconds on a ball with a mass of 0.045 kilograms, then the ball will be moving at 100 meters per second after the collision (9000 N × 0.0005 s / 0.045 kg).
In this case, a stray golf ball had enough energy to break the zygoma, a relatively thick and strong facial bone. As known, zygomatic arch fractures are classified as 3 types (Hönig Merten (HM) classification). This case belongs to type I (isolated tripod fracture) (
In this case, sensorimotor nerve damage was not detected. With such a high-velocity hit, why the facial nerve was not damaged? According to a recent paper of analyzing 495 maxillofacial trauma, incidence of nerve injury was 67.7%. Among them, 8 patients (1.6%) damaged facial nerve. The most commonly involved facial nerve branch was marginal mandibular, (5 patients, 1%), and other branches (buccal, temporal, and zygomatic) were relatively rare (1 each, 0.2% each) (
7). This less frequency of motor nerve injury might explain the intactness of zygomatic branch in this case.
Since the trigeminal nerve injury is relatively high in maxillofacial trauma (inferior alveolar branch; 39.1%, infraorbital branch in 135 (27.2%) (
7), surgeons should check the sensory changes in the patients hit by a golf ball.
Serious face or head injuries on the golf course may be prevented by informing other golfers and shouting the word “fore (look ahead; a term warning the flight of a golf ball)” when it appears possible that a golf ball may hit other players or spectators. Other players or spectators should turn their back to the source of the call, duck, and cover their face and head with their hands. This prevents exposure of the face, eyes, and head to the flight of the ball (
When meet the patients hit by a golf ball, surgeons should aware of the possibility of the facial bone fractures including nasal bone or zygoma.