The injuries keep on accumulating for the New York Jets during this training camp, and this recent injury certainly falls into the "Same ol' Jets Luck" fashion. Earlier this week, Geno Smith got his jaw fractured in two places sidelining him for 6-10 weeks. This article will provide information about a jaw fracture and the recovery process for it.
What is the injury?
The jaw consists of two bones: the mandible (the lower part that moves your mouth down) and the maxilla bone (upper part that is a part of your skull). The mandible connects to the temporal bone (another bone that is a part of your skull) to create to the temporomandibular joint (aka TMJ). A fracture is a break in the bone as a result from several factors; in this case, it was direct trauma.
Why will it take 6-10 weeks to heal?
Due to the significance of fracture, Geno will require surgery to reassemble his jaw. The specifics of the surgery are out of my wheelhouse. However, I do know that he will switch to a liquid-heavy diet as he probably will not be able to chew food for a prolonged period of time. As a result, Smith will lose a lot of weight due to his diet restrictions, and that may take a while to build that bulk back up before he enters in a game. Geno cannot play with this jaw fracture as a result of this surgery as he can possibly be even more messed up if he takes a hit to re-fracture his jaw; despite the fact that Peyton Manning played with a broken jaw at one point in his career, his injury was nowhere near as significant as Geno's injury.
Bone healing takes place in three phases: inflammatory, reparative, and remodeling. The inflammatory phase is the initial reaction to the injury as the fractured site gets swollen, red, and very painful. In the reparative phase, bone cells start rebuilding the broken bone and bridge together the separate pieces; a callous forms and eventually turns into a clinical union (the bone pieces are reconnected). The new bone begins to harden in the remodeling phase and consolidates to make the bone rigid once more; this phase can take several months to be complete. However, Geno does not have to wait for this phase to be over to resume playing. X-rays are taken periodically to track the progress of bone healing; a clinical union is ideally seen within 4-6 weeks and consolidation is seen at 6-8 weeks. This timeline suggests that Geno will need a week or two of practice to get back into game condition, assuming there are no complications with his recovery.
Physical therapy for jaw fractures is atypical. However, treatment would revolve around pain management, scar tissue management, and restoration of TMJ mobility and muscular strength of the mouth. Cold packs and gentle massages can be utilized to help the pain and certain "low load" (essentially meaning light weight) exercises would aid in restoring the range of motion of the TMJ (open and close the mouth fully and pain-free) and the muscle of the mouth (primarily the masseter, the muscle responsible for chewing).
The goal of PT is to prevent TMJ disorder/dysfunction which is a more common diagnosis for PT treatment. TMJ dysfunction is pain/discomfort in the jaw caused by improper biomechanics of the joint (i.e. catching of the mouth as it is opening or not being able to open/close your mouth completely).