Newcastle United forward Shola Ameobi has admitted he is putting his career at risk by making his return to action with a protective mask.
Ameobi broke his cheekbone against Fulham at the beginning of February, and only made a return to action in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Everton - wearing the mask to protect the affected area. He has described his return as a "big risk" - admitting his career could be over if he gets involved in another clash and inflicts further damage on an injury that is still healing.
"I know I've taken a big risk because the surgeon has told me if it does go again he won't operate because it would be too dangerous," Ameobi said. "With bones, you have to give it a bit of time to settle and start fusing together. So I'm still waiting for that to happen."
Having suffered a similar injury to his other cheekbone seven years ago, Ameobi is relieved that advancements in treatment have reduced his period on the sidelines.
"I remember the last time I did it, I was out quite a long time because the technology wasn't there to be able to do this," he said. "It was very frustrating for me and it has been again, because it's something that I couldn't have avoided. But it's great to be able to halve the time of recovery, get back on the field and help the team finish as high up the table as we can.
"It's great that the club obviously want me back as quickly as possible, but I also have that willingness to play. I wanted to do this as much as the club did."
Ameobi is not the first player to need to wear protective items while playing - Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech being an obvious example - but he admits that the mask is something he will have to get used to quickly, before it starts to affect his performances.
"The mask is made of the material they use in bulletproof glass and it's see-through so aesthetically it's not too bad. It is moulded to my face, but when you do move around and sweat that creates a bit of movement that ideally you don't want." he said.
"Any little thing that distracts you like that will put you off your game, and it's trying to get over that mental hurdle and just dealing with it."