Incidence of facial fractures in the Australian Football League

ANZ J Surg. 2012 Oct;82(10):724-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-2197.2012.06181.x. Epub 2012 Aug 24.


Background: The incidence of facial injuries within the Australian Football League (AFL) raises concern and can cause the temporary or permanent loss of function thereby threatening a player's earning potential and length of playing career. The purpose of this study was to identify all facial fractures occurring within the AFL over a 17-season period from 1992 to 2008. We aimed to detail injury trends and possible factors that correlate to a player's risk of sustaining a facial fracture.

Methods: A case review of the AFL's prospective injury records looking at facial fractures sustained by AFL players over a 17-year period was conducted. We analysed various parameters including frequency, distribution, player location, time of season, player recovery, fracture incidence per season and geographical location of facial fracture.

Results: In the recorded period, 175 total facial fractures were sustained by AFL players. A majority of fractures, 108 (62%), were sustained during season matches. Zygomaticomaxillary complex fractures (41%) and mandibular (37%) fractures were the most commonly recorded. Players missed 517 matches because of injury with an average of three matches per injury.

Conclusions: The AFL is a high-impact, physically demanding competition resulting in significant numbers of facial fractures. There has been a trend of decreased incidence of facial fractures in the AFL from 2006 to 2008. This trend may be attributable to an AFL rule change, which occurred during the study period. Further injury recording could give a more accurate representation of the impact that future AFL rule changes have.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Australia
  • Facial Bones / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Risk Factors
  • Skull Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Skull Fractures / etiology