What Really Happens When You Faceplant

Serious facial fractures that aren't really that funny

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 6, 2014 6:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Kids have a word for it when you land face-first: "fail." As an Internet meme, it's called faceplanting. But what really happens when people use their face for brakes? At BoingBoing, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the physical results—which aren't pretty—and takes a glimpse at the related field of injury biomechanics. She starts with a paper by a mechanical engineer about a classic faceplant: young man tries to ride bike along a board from shoreline to dock, misses board, lands face-first. (See the video here.) He endured Le Fort II and III fractures, his face cracking in a triangle shape starting at the top of the nose and going down both sides to the upper jaw.

Sadly, other researchers say this particular video won't advance the field because the frame-rate is poor; real experiments analyze the 10-20 milliseconds in which injuries occur. So Koerth-Baker delves deeper into injury biomechanics, starting with John Stapp, an Air Force flight surgeon who endured a sudden stop in a rocket sled at 46.2 g's of force in 1954. He broke nearly all the capillaries in his eyes, Ejection Site reports, but his work helped the Air Force design pilot ejector-seats. More recently, studies on NFL concussions have shown that hits from the side or back cause more concussions than hits on the crown of the helmet. Which leaves faceplanters where, exactly? Well, getting seriously injured as we laugh and learn. At least this one, at SBNation, faceplanted on purpose in an effort to help his team. (Click to check out some less painful memes.)

An epic faceplant?
An "epic" faceplant?   (YouTube)
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