There is a risk of being hit in the mouth and jaw area in many different types of sports. Nani Avellaneda, field hockey player at CD Terrassa, suffered a double fracture to the jaw when playing for Grange HC in Scotland. Today, fully aware of the need to play with proper protection, he tells COVER PROTEC about the experience.
Good morning, Nani. Quite a scare, no?
Good morning! Well yes, it really was. You’re not aware of the dangers of your sport until you find yourself in that situation.
How did it happen?
That day is engraved on my memory. Actually, it will be 3 years this week. I was playing in the Scottish league with Grange HC. We were playing the last league match in Dundee. We had already classified for the play-offs, so we weren’t playing too hard. But I pushed a little harder! On a penalty kick, I had to go in and deflect backwards, but I had a bit of bad luck and when I hit the ball it shot up, and then we were in trouble. It hit me straight in the jaw.
What happened then?
They took me to Dundee Hospital, and a few hours later to a hospital in Edinburgh. They told me I had fractured my jaw in two different places and they would have to perform an emergency operation. So they operated on me, setting my jaw with a titanium plate and putting the entire dental cavity back in place.
Through all of this, you were far away from home and your family. How do you remember it?
I tried to handle it as well as I could. They told me that Saint Johns Hospital was actually known for their maxillofacial surgery department, so that reassured me. Even so, being away from home does make it a bit scary. Though I couldn’t talk much, I tried to reassure and calm my parents, but in the end, they showed up in Edinburgh the day after the operation. Luckily, everything went smoothly.
And so after the accident, you decided to return to the pitch.
I returned to the team in time to finish the last part of the season, when we played the Cup and the Euro Hockey Challenge. I played with a mask that protected my whole face. I needed to play. Unfortunately, I’ve had to get it out other times too over the past 3 years due to two broken noses. We never learn!
What consequences, either short- or long-term, have you experienced as a result of the accident in Scotland?
The first few weeks after the operation were tough. My lower jaw was wired and that was very limiting. At 23 years-old, I had to start eating baby food again and smoothies through a straw; it wasn’t nice. Within a few months, I was able to return to my normal life, and now I just remember it as anecdote. Strangely enough, because my jaw is fixed with a titanium plate, I remember the accident particularly well on days when it rains.
Do you wear a mouthguard when playing?
Fortunately, yes. Despite the impact hitting the side of my face, they told me that if I hadn’t been wearing the mouthguard the injury would have been much worse. I hadn’t worn one before, but luckily that year I had decided to get one. The mouthguard absorbed the blow and I didn’t lose any teeth.
Since that experience, do you always play with protection?
Absolutely always. I first played with a dentist’s mouthguard, but when I tried COVER PROTEC, I discovered a whole new world. It was like playing with a wooden stick! I can’t go on the pitch without my mouthguard. I haven’t been the first person in my family to suffer an injury like this. My father also had an accident and he wasn’t wearing a mouthguard. If I don’t wear it, I feel like I’m playing without my stick or my shin-pads.
What’s an Avellaneda y Malgosa doing playing for CD Terrassa?
Ha-ha! When the season in Edinburgh ended, I went home for the summer and I was planning on going back. But my plans changed when I was given the opportunity to play with CD Terrassa. The fact of being able to play with DHA motivated me, but even more so the group of people. I’ve always had friends there and, with another “yellow” there, the project really appealed to me. So, in the space of a few days, I changed Edinburgh for Las Pedritxes, where I’ve been for two and a half years now.
Did they take the news well back home?
At home we’ve always been big fans of Atlètic! Founding grandfathers, Olympian uncles and parents with European medals. But it hasn’t been a problem. They respected and supported my decision. What’s more, just as I have a little bit of “yellow” in me, I’ve awoken a little bit of red in them. Although a few of my relatives have joked that red just doesn’t look as good on me. But I always thought that red went well with everything!
How is the season going with CD Terrassa?
Challenging! After going up and down twice in the classifications, we have the challenge and the obligation to stay at the top of our game. We’ve matured a lot in the last 2-3 years, and I think we have a team with more than enough talent to achieve our goal. We’re coming from a good final in the first round, a sub-championship in Catalonia and we’ve played well in the rink. That gives us a boost to begin the second round. The results haven’t always been on our side, but we’re in a good place and if we continue like this, we’ll manage it.
What is the best thing about your team?
This is my third season; and the team has stayed the same, which means we’re no longer just a group of players, now we’re a group of friends. That will probably be the key to us achieving our goals this season. Don’t forget that we all play to have fun and, with all the hours we put in, there’s nothing better than being surrounded by friends.
And the best thing about CD Terrassa?
It has a really long history and you can see that reflected in its day-to-day. It’s a family club, where all the main goals are achieved with the support of all its members. Everyone contributes a little bit and when it’s time to roll up our sleeves, we’re never a hand short. That’s what really made me feel at home from the very beginning.
Which rival player would you like to play with?
There are a lot that I’d like to have on my own side rather than as opponents. I’ve played and I play with top players and also with friends, so all that’s missing would be to play with my family. Uri, Marcel, Quim, Santi… “Malgosas” all of them are in the División de Honor, and I sometimes have play against them. In spite of us being around the same age, I’ve never been on the same team as them and I’ve always longed to have the chance.
Sadly, you’re injured again now… Will you be out of action for long?
Well, yes. My ankle was bothering me for a while and last week I twisted it and sprained it, so I’m out for this season. Unfortunately, we’re not playing the Copa del Rey tournament this weekend, and that also gives me some time to recover and be at 100% in two weeks’ time, when we play the first final against Barça at home.
Wee hope you are better soon. We wish you all the luck in the world, a lot of wins and fewer injuries! Thank you very much, Nani.