Opening night in the NBA was filled with surprises, but the first one we got came from off the court when Bulls forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic got into an altercation during practice.
Portis reportedly punched Mirotic in the exchange. After the incident, Mirotic went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and maxillary fractures. The Bulls will likely suspend Portis, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
Mirotic will be out indefinitely with his injuries and could require surgery. We’re not doctors, so we won’t try to diagnose Mirotic’s exact issue. But here’s everything we know about facial fractures.
So what is a facial fracture?
Facial fractures are exactly what they sound like — broken bones in the face. They can happen in multiple areas, like the jaw, the cheek, the orbital sockets where our eyes are, and even frontal bones in your forehead.
The most common facial fractures we see are broken noses. These fractures can be unilateral, meaning that they’re on one side of the face, or bilateral, when they stretch to both sides of the face.
Just like other breaks in bones, there can be fractures in multiple areas of the face at one time that need to be repaired and can often require surgery. Some facial fractures to the jaw can affect the muscles and ligaments we use to chew and move our mouths.
What is a maxillary fracture?
It’s a fracture to the upper jaw area just below the nasal cavity. The maxillary area is connected to multiple areas of the face including the cheekbones. According to the Bulls’ report, Mirotic has two fractures to his upper jaw along with a concussion.
Mirotic may have to deal with breaks in other areas as well. However, it’s unclear how bad the damage from the breaks are. It probably feels as awful as it sounds. The Bulls say the breaks will require surgery.
Have we seen this type of fracture before?
We haven’t seen a maxillary fracture in the NBA so far, but we have seen different types of facial fractures on players. In recent history, both Russell Westbrook and Mike Conley Jr. were able to play with facial fractures.
Westbrook suffered a fracture in his zygomatic arch, where the cheekbones are, and underwent surgery for it in 2015. But Westbrook only missed one game because of the fracture and played out the rest of the season after surgery.
That same season, Conley suffered a fracture to his orbital bone in April and had surgery in the middle of a playoff series. He returned a few games later and played with a protective mask on, but did say he had trouble seeing in his description of the ordeal to Sports Illustrated.
There’s no timetable for Mirotic’s return, but it’s hard to see him coming back as quickly as Westbrook and Conley did. There are protective measures the Bulls and Mirotic can take, but if the fractures are too deep or expansive, it may not be worth it.