Lacrosse player suffers grueling injury: breaks jaw

“They thought I was missing a tooth, but then realized my jaw was broken,” said junior Erik Nelson, in reference to a recent accident during an Eastern men’s lacrosse practice.

Erik Nelson was ending a Thursday practice with a five on five scrimmage, when an attack-man took a shot on goal. Instead of scoring points, it scored Nelson a trip to the E.R.

“I had no time to react, it was pretty much less than a second,” Nelson said.

The force of the ball drove Nelson’s facemask into his mouth, leaving nothing but a blood filled mouth guard.

“Having my helmet driven into my jaw and mouth guard was a sharp, burning sensation which honestly felt like I just let Muhammad Ali take a jab to my face or someone taking a hammer and swinging at your chin and teeth on an angle,” Nelson said. “Everything became dizzy, I heard a ringing noise, my mouth became completely full of blood. I knew right away that my teeth were a wreck from the intense burning, tingling feeling, which eventually became slightly numb.”

The coaches told Nelson to continue playing, but once they saw him spit out enough blood to cover his jersey they decided to take him off of the field.

Originally, Nelson thought he lost a tooth, but it was not until he attempted to eat later that night, when he realized his jaw was no longer aligned. “When I went to bite down on the sandwich (his dinner), the left side of my lower teeth were shifted over to the right and pushed backward, so much so that none of my back teeth even came close to touching each other,” Nelson said. “I could not bite anything.”

He knew he needed to go to the hospital, and after the doctors showed Nelson the x-rays, it became evident that his jaw was split in half down to his chin and cracked along the lower right side.

After numerous hours in the hospital, three different painkillers and surgery, Nelson returned home with his jaw wired shut.

For the next six weeks, Nelson will be unable to play or practice with his teammates. His doctor recommended taking the remainder of the season off, but Nelson has high hopes of healing faster than expected and getting back out onto the field.

Athletic trainer John Post has encouraged Nelson to continue working out, but for him it’s not the same. “I love watching lacrosse, but it’s tough not playing” Nelson said.

Although Nelson was not a starter, he spent all year training for the season. He recently set a new Eastern men’s lacrosse record mile time at 4:47 and best weight lifting numbers for Fall Ball Lacrosse, including benching 190-lbs 24 times, 33 pull-ups and 57 dips, and was going to be starting in the season’s first scrimmage.

Nelson’s teammates have been nothing but supportive, and the constant text messages and emails he receives from coaches and friends only help the healing process.

His teammates have made light of the situation by calling him Alexander Ovechkin (captain of the NHL Washington Capitals) and suggesting he get a grill with “Nelson” written on it.

Nelson will continue to travel with the team and according to head coach Brandon Childs, Nelson “sets the standard for how to work.”

“He (Nelson) is known around campus as a hard worker,” Childs said. “Erik is always working and always smiling and that is contagious. We will miss how his attitude is always right and always rubs off on those around him.”

The team will now be down a sub, and although the timing was not perfect, Nelson has still managed to stay optimistic.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Nelson said. “Maybe this was just so I could focus more on myself and my school work.” 

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