A broken jaw (or mandibular fracture), the second most common facial fracture in sports, can be very painful and its degree of seriousness often depends on the number of fractures and their location.
A fracture, or brake, can happen anywhere along the jawbone. In more than 50% of all broken jaw cases, inside and outside the sport, the jaw fractures in at least two places.
So how does one get a broken jaw in boxing?
Very simple. He or she absorbs a hard punch to the jaw while their mouth is open.
Broken Jaw Prevention
No matter how tired a fighter gets, he/she should never fight with an open mouth, especially in a pitched battle.
Fighters should always bite down on their mouthpiece when they're in harm's way of an opponent or anywhere near harm's way.
Don't Talk at Close Range
Also, a fighter who talks to his/her opponent places themself at risk for a broken jaw. Hence, they have to open their mouth to speak. Muhammad Ali, in his first bout against Ken Norton, was talking smack in the second round when Norton unleashed a hard right to Ali's jaw, breaking it.
Pictured: Muhammad Ali covers up after suffering a broken jaw against Ken Norton in Round 2. Ali would finish the 10 round bout but drop a decision.
Use a Well-Fitted Mouthpiece
A specially made mouthpiece can help minimize the chance of jaw injury. Many professionals have mouth-guards specially-made by a licensed dental practitioner. It is constructed of a rubber that is highly resistant to shock, fits over both rows of teeth and is well-suited to fit that fighter's dental structure.
Even if a fighter chooses not to have a professionally-contoured mouthguard made specifically for him/her, the mouth-guard he/she uses must always be as comfortable as possible and well-fitted. Do NOT underestimate the importance of a well-fitted mouth-guard.
What to Do if a Fighter's Jaw is Believed to be Broken
All broken jaws require medical treatment. Seek medical help immediately.
While in the dressing room and/or on the way to the hospital, a fighter who believes they have a break or jaw fracture should make sure to keep their jaw in place until he/she arrives at a medical facility. This can be done by manually via one's hands or by having a bandage wrapped loosely around the top of the head and under the chin.
Don't alter the position of the jaw and apply ice to the area to reduce swelling.
Breathing problems can occur with a broken jaw. A fighter who experiences difficulty breathing should call an ambulance without delay.
Should a Fighter be Allowed to Fight with a Broken Jaw?
Fighters have been known to continue fighting well after they've suffered a break. When it's not advisable to continue fighting, its a judgment call. If the fighter wants to continue to fight, it "may" be an indication the break isn't severe.
Broken Jaw Symptoms
• Jaw pain
• Malocclusion (teeth do not align when jaw is closed)
• Oral bleeding
• Changes in speech
• Gross Deformity
• Difficulty opening your mouth
• Point tenderness over the fracture site
• Pain on opening and closing the jaw
• The feeling that your teeth don't fit together properly or that your bite is "off"
• Numbness in your lower lip or chin -- a possible sign of nerve damage related to the fracture
Depending on the nature and location of the break, surgery might be required. Fractures that do not require surgery are managed best with dietary changes and pain control.
The outlook is usually very good, especially when the fracture is treated quickly and properly. However, without medical attention long-term complications can include jaw deformity and pain as well as limited movement at the jaw joint and a bad bite.
The normal healing time for a fractured jaw is six to eight weeks but each situation is different.
And in most cases, a fighter should be able to make a healthy return after the fracture has healed.
Does suffering a broken jaw make a fighter more susceptible to jaw fractures in the future?
Perhaps - But this writer is not aware of a case where a fighter who sustained a broken jaw in the ring fractured it again later in their career.
This is not the opinion of a medical professional or someone even close. Always consult a physician if you have had or think you have a dislocated or broken jaw.