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February 2, 2016

Why We Mandate Mouthguards

Why We Mandate Mouthguards

TEAM TUESDAY – They say an image of a disfigured or injured face is often the best way to get a point across to young adults. Well, here you go.

There’s all this rage about concussions – and rightfully so – but not enough talk about prevention (aside from quitting football or never having your kid start it.) No one is also being clear about the difference a coach can make in mandating the protection of athlete’s bodies. Simple stuff. You say it’s part of the uniform – jersey, shorts, mouth guard and knee pads. You don’t have any part of that uniform, you do not play.

I went to see two private school girls’ teams play yesterday and it was tough to watch knowing that four girls had been concussed recently. One rising post player didn’t even attend the game. When she starts running the headaches come back. The team’s highest scorer was out, too, with her symptoms being so uncomfortable that she had to wear special glasses. A fourth girl had received a bad hit during a lacrosse weekend event, which really could have been avoided if the lacrosse program dialed it down during non-lacrosse season. A fifth girl was on the floor playing on a time restriction because she’s had her third concussion in the last year or so.

One of our toughest kids two years ago, Jack, took a hit in lacrosse that left him with vertigo and migraines for almost a year. He’s a serious academic student and he had to completely alter his way of learning and take regular breaks. After returning to physical activity, he got bumped again and the symptoms returned. He’s still not out of the woods. His body isn’t the same and neither are his circle of friends.

One of our post players at Dalton hit the deck during a game about one month ago after a really strong spurt early on in the reason. Broke his tooth. Root canal. No contact for two weeks. He just returned.

Coaches need to think more about their kids spraining their ankles. There are arguments that can be made that wearing ankle guards puts you more at risk by weakening of your feet. Why aren’t more coaches mandating mouth guards as we do at Mo’ Motion?

It’s because the kids complain. Up until the point they see a kid hit the deck and all of them are scrambling to find the kids’ tooth, which was the case the first spring we started Mo’ Motion. It also helps to have a director who took a bad elbow years after a college career wearing a mouth guard. I thought I was too cool to wear a mouthguard – that it wasn’t needed – while paying a pick-up game with men. A guy and his elbow landed on me at half court and out came my entire upper bridge. It took 37 visits to the dentist over the course of two years to put my mouth back together.

I’ve never seen a hit to the face on the basketball court where a person is wearing a mouth guard and they get their teeth knocked out or they still get concussed. Granted, it happens in the football quite a bit after wicked hits at full force with helmets on and repeated hits.

Just seems to me that it should be at least mandated for kids who have been concussed to be mandated to wear a mouth guard for all contact activities for a least six months. The slamming together of the teeth may break a tooth and jar the brain all in one lucky hit.

And finally, it seems that there should be more done to do head and neck injury prevention drills. We do handstands against the wall. We encourage weight lifting to build the head, neck and upper body so that when someone’s head whips out of it’s comfort zone, muscles are strong enough to mitigate the damage.

It just seems like common sense to me – make kids wear mouth guards. Period. If they don’t wear them, they don’t play. Throw some knee pads on them, too. I don’t care how much they complain. If I expect my kids to love contact and dive for loose balls, it is my responsibility to provide them with gear that will protect their bodies.