Last night my daughter had her first field hockey practice and I am not sure who learned more – her or me. At the very beginning of the practice her coach took a few minutes to introduce herself to the parents, let us know what to expect from practices and games, and took the time to tell us about the single most important piece of field hockey gear our daughters need for the season – a good mouthguard.
A good mouthguard will serve two key roles in the safety of an athlete:
- The mouthguard will protect the teeth and gums from lacerations, breaks and other injuries as a result of being hit by the ball, a stick, another player, or falls.
- The mouthguard will also offer a level of protection against concussions by stabilizing the jaw and absorbing some of the impact.
Mouthguards will not prevent all injuries, but according to mouthguard manufacturer Shock Doctor, it is estimated that mouthguards prevent more than 200,000 injuries each year.
The athletes are required to wear their mouthguards anytime a ball is in play – which means from the beginning of practice until the end and the entire game. It's just that important. Our league has even gone as far as to require the athletes wear colored mouthguards to make it much easier for coaches and referees to visually check for mouthguards.
So, what kind of mouthguard do you get? Based on the research I have been doing and the recommendation of our coaches, the newer technology, double layer mouthguards are the way to go. Yes, they are more expensive, but the construction of the mouthguard is going to give more protection for your athlete. If your athlete wears braces, they make mouthguards specifically for braces, too (like the one pictured at the left).
Once you have the mouthguard, be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions to a tee to get the best fit and most comfort for your player. Most require the mouthguard be boiled and then the athlete to bite on the mouthguard very hard while it is in their mouth. The better fitting mouthguard, the better! You may have to try a few mouthguards before your athlete finds the one that works best and while there are mouthguards for youth, intermediate and adult, take into account your child's mouth size not just their age when picking out a mouthguard. Our daughter is very tall for 9 and while the youth mouthguard says ages 10 and under, her mouth fits much more comfortably into the one for ages 11 and up.
After each wear be sure to wash and dry the mouthguard and remind your athlete not to chew on it.
More resources on Mouthguards and their relationship to injury and concussion prevention in youth athletes:
- Mouthguard Facts
- Commentary: Role of Properly Fitted Mouthguards in Prevention of Sport-Related Concussion
- American Association of Orthodontics on Why Mouthguards
If your child (or you) play field hockey, ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse, football, softball, baseball or any other potential contact sport (ball, puck, stick or person), a good quality, good fitting mouthguard is an investment you absolutely must make!!