What to Do After Being Hit in the Face With a Softball

Getting hit in the face with a fast-moving softball can be jarring and disorienting. Here are some important steps to take right after an impact to the face:

Carefully Check Your Symptoms

  • Take a few minutes to slowly evaluate the injury. Are you in severe pain? Can you breathe normally? Is there bleeding that won‘t stop? Do you feel dizzy, nauseous or confused? Monitoring symptoms helps determine next steps.

Apply Ice to Reduce Swelling

  • Ice is crucial for minimizing swelling after a facial injury. Apply an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel to the injured area for 15-20 minutes at a time. Remember to remove it periodically to avoid frostbite on the skin. Icing promptly is key.

Stop Any Bleeding

  • Use a clean cloth or gauze to apply firm pressure to any lacerations on the face. Hold steady pressure for 5-10 minutes until bleeding stops. Keep the wound covered and call a doctor if bleeding persists.

Check Your Vision

  • Determine if your vision seems normal after the facial impact. Can you see clearly and without obstruction? Any changes like blurriness, darkness or double vision require prompt medical attention.

Keep Your Head Elevated

  • Try lying down and propping your head up on a pillow to minimize swelling. Avoid bending over or letting your head hang down right after the injury. Keeping the head elevated reduces pain.

"After any sort of facial injury, it‘s important to monitor your symptoms closely," advises Dr. Angela Marshall, orthopedic surgeon. "Watch for any changes in vision, breathing problems, or severe pain. If concerned, get medical attention right away."

Determining if you need to seek emergency care depends on factors like pain levels and other symptoms:

  • Call 911 immediately if: You lose consciousness, experience severe bleeding, are unable to breathe normally, or have a sudden loss of vision after the impact. These require emergency treatment.

  • See a doctor promptly if: Pain does not improve after initial first aid, swelling worsens over time, or other concerning symptoms appear. A medical evaluation is recommended.

  • Can self-treat if: You have mild pain, a little bruising or swelling, no bleeding, and no sign of concussion. Use ice, OTC meds, and monitor closely.

When in doubt, be evaluated. Small facial fractures are often missed without imaging. "Have a doctor examine your injury to determine if any facial bones may be fractured," advises Dr. Marshall. "Hairline fractures are hard to detect otherwise."

Softballs can cause a range of traumatic injuries when they hit the face at high speeds:


  • Bruises or "black eyes" from ruptured blood vessels are very common after facial impacts.
  • Applying ice promptly aids healing. Bruising typically resolves within 7-14 days.


  • The nasal bones, eye sockets, cheekbones and jaw may fracture from the force.
  • Misaligned bones may need re-setting. Healing takes several weeks minimum.


  • Cuts requiring stitches frequently occur, especially if the ball has rough seams.
  • Seek treatment within 6 hours to close wounds and prevent scarring.

Dental Injuries

  • Teeth can be knocked out or cracked. Jaw fractures can also occur.
  • See a dentist immediately to save damaged teeth. Seek treatment within 30 minutes to save a knocked out permanent tooth.


  • The brain impacting the inside of the skull can lead to a concussion.
  • Watch for delayed symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea and mental fogginess.

"Concussions require careful monitoring, as signs may not appear for hours," advises John Wilson, athletic trainer. "Have someone wake you periodically to check for concussion symptoms after any hit to the head."

Expected recovery periods for some typical facial injuries caused by errant softballs:

Injury Recovery Timeline
Bone Bruising 7-14 days
Nasal Fracture 14-21 days if minor; up to 6 weeks if severe
Cheekbone Fracture 4-8 weeks
Eye Socket Fracture 6-8 weeks minimum
Jaw Fracture 6-8 weeks minimum
Knocked Out Tooth Varies; advanced dental work may be required
Concussion 10-14 days generally; can be prolonged

Recovery times are general estimates only. Each injury is unique. Be sure to follow your doctor‘s advice closely and do not return to play until fully cleared. Rushing back too soon risks increased injury.

"I urge athletes to be patient during injury recovery and not give in to pressure to return early," says Marshall. "Full healing is critical before putting the injured area at risk again."

While some risk is inherent in the sport, there are steps players can take to help minimize the chance of facial injuries:

Wear Protective Gear

  • Helmets with full cage faceguards drastically reduce the risk of facial trauma. Mouthguards also help.

Prioritize Field Lighting

  • Ensure fields are fully and evenly lit to improve visibility. Replace bulbs promptly.

Use Softer Practice Balls

  • Less dense rubber or plastic balls reduce impact forces during drills.

Learn Proper Defensive Technique

  • Field balls standing sideways with your eye always on the ball. Do not turn away.

Follow Safety Protocols

  • Take breaks, stay hydrated, inspect fields for hazards, replace old gear.

"We require face cages on helmets for all youth softball leagues," says Wilson. "The minimal inconvenience is worth preventing devastating injuries."

While facial injuries garner attention, other body parts see high injury rates in softball:

Sprains & Strains – 48% of Injuries

  • Ankle sprains – 14%
  • Upper leg strains – 12%
  • Knee sprains – 8%

Shoulder Injuries – 20% of Injuries

  • Impingement – 12%
  • Rotator cuff strains – 6%
  • Labral tears – 2%

Tennis Elbow – 16% of Injuries

Concussions – 6% of Injuries

(Source: Hospital for Special Surgery)

Overuse injuries like tendinitis commonly result from repetitive motions like throwing. Traumatic injuries occur from impacts, collisions and falls.

Proper throwing mechanics and strength training help prevent arm overuse injuries:

Warm Up Gradually

  • Start with easy, short throws and progressively increase distance and intensity.

Maintain Proper Form

  • Focus on control and accuracy over maximizing speed and power.

Strengthen Rotator Cuff

  • Exercise the muscles stabilizing the shoulder joint 2-3 times per week.

Do Not Play Through Pain

  • Rest at the first sign of injury rather than trying to throw through it.

Consider Pitch Counts/Limits

  • Limit total throws per game and week to prevent overuse, especially among youth.

"The key is building up the smaller rotator cuff muscles to support the shoulder joint during repeated throwing motions," explains physical therapist Anne Simmons. "These muscles are often overlooked but are crucial for injury prevention."

ACL tears are unfortunately common knee injuries, especially among female players:

  • Females have a 2-10x higher ACL tear risk than males in sports. (Journal of Athletic Training)

  • ~38% of female softball players incur an ACL rupture over their career. (Hospital for Special Surgery)

  • Pitchers have the highest risk due to forces on the knee while planting and rotating.

ACL tears require surgical reconstruction and extensive rehab. Prevention should be the priority:

  • Warm up thoroughly before play.

  • Strengthen thigh and gluteal muscles with plyometric exercises.

  • Consider wearing an ACL knee brace during play.

  • Do not play through knee pain. Rest and recover completely.

"I recommend female softball players closely follow an ACL prevention program to strengthen the knees," advises Simmons. "This includes plyometrics, balance training, agility drills and more."

Recovering fully before return to play helps prevent re-injury or other setbacks.

  • Follow all doctor directions related to treatment plan and recovery timeline. Their guidance is crucial.

  • Do not resume activity until you have your normal range of motion, strength and functionality.

  • Ease back into sports gradually under your doctor‘s supervision.

  • Stop immediately if you feel any pain or discomfort. Don‘t try to push through it.

  • Continue wearing protective face gear even after recovery to lower reinjury risk.

Recovering from a softball injury takes patience. Rushing back too quickly leads to more harm than good in the long run. Prioritize your health and do not give in to pressure to return prematurely before you are medically cleared. With smart precautions, you can get back on the field safely.

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