Surgeon’s Son Shares Journey Back to Baseball After Injury

3 min read  |  August 22, 2023  | 
Disponible en Español |

Nate Kaplan suffered severe injuries trying to steal home plate during a high school baseball game.

“The catcher grabbed the ball, threw it back, and it hit my face right here. I remember moving my tongue around my mouth and I feel like my teeth completely out of position,” says Nate.

The ball broke Nate’s jaw and knocked out three teeth! Nate’s dad, Lee Kaplan, M.D., the Director of UM Sports Medicine Institute at UHealth, says these types of craniofacial injuries in youth baseball are way too common.

“Injuries are very prevalent in adolescent sports. The numbers are almost staggering. The facial injuries in baseball are over 25% of the ER visits that kids are having,” Dr. Kaplan says.

Each year, some 30,000 student athletes end up in the emergency room with a craniofacial injury. That’s why Nate teamed up with a University of Miami engineering student to help create a detachable faceguard to protect baseball players from suffering the same time of injury he did.

Mouth guards prevent sports injuries

“It attaches to an existing piece that’s already on the helmet, and then it kind of just goes end to end. So, it’s just easy to attach and remove,” Nate says.

Nate now speaks at UHealth community outreach events about sports injury prevention.

“We had an event recently where we handed out mouth guards. So, it’s good to know that every time you hand out a mouth guard, it could be preventing another big injury,” says Nate.

Something Dr. Kaplan and the team at the UM Sports Medicine Institute know a lot about.

“I may be the one that people see on the field. It’s not just me. I feel that I’m very representative of the 1,300 providers that we have at UHealth and many researchers who help us do things at an elite level,” Dr. Kaplan says.

Dr. Kaplan couldn’t be prouder of his son’s work alongside the UHealth team in helping to keep young athletes safe and in the game.

“Because it’s not really about baseball. It’s about, do you get back out there? Do you do what you do?” says Dr. Kaplan.

Lee Kaplan, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon and Director of the UM Sports Medicine Institute at UHealth, the University of Miami Health System. Learn more about our sports medicine treatments and services.

Video transcript compiled by Janna Ross for ‘Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine,’ a series of health care-related stories airing regularly on WPLG Local 10.  For more stories like this one, visit UHealth’s YouTube channel.

Tags: craniofacial injury, Dr. Lee Kaplan, focusing on you, orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine, student baseball injuries, youth sports injuries

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