April marks the start of many spring sports for kids from Little League to spring soccer. While team sports are a great activity, it’s important that our children are sufficiently protected while they’re on the field. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sports-related injuries are the leading cause of emergency room visits for 12 – 17 year olds. Unfortunately, according to a new survey, many parents don’t enforce the use of some inexpensive protective sports gear, such as mouth guards, in many kids’ sports.
April has been designated National Facial Protection Month. To help educate parents, coaches and kids about this issue, The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) has teamed up with Jennifer Montana, wife of football great Joe Montana, to urge athletes to “play it safe” by wearing mouth guards and other appropriate protective gear when participating in many sports and activities.
The AAO commissioned a survey to determine why many preventable face and mouth injuries are still so prevalent among young athletes. Overall, the survey results showed the need for better education of parents and coaches about the risks and need for mouth guards and other protective measures in sports.
· The need for mouth guards is severely underestimated – 67% of parents surveyed said that their child does not wear a mouth guard yet 70% said that their greatest fear when their child plays organized sports is that they will get hurt.
· Most coaches and leagues are not advising the use of mouth guards – Of the parents whose children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports, including practice, 84% said it’s because the league or coach does not require it.
· Many parents don’t realize that there are many sports in which it’s important to where a mouth guard – While there was a high recognition that mouth guards should be worn while playing football, ice hockey and wrestling, other sports were not considered. Baseball, soccer, basketball and football account for about 80% of all sports-related emergency room visits for children between 5 and 14 years of age. Mouth guards should be worn in all of these sports.
Mouth guards not only save teeth but they may protect jaws. Additionally, face guards, devices made of plastic or metal that attach to baseball helmets, also help to prevent facial injuries.
So how can kids play it safe? Here are a few important tips:
· Wear mouth guards for contact sports – Mouth guards can help prevent jaw, mouth and teeth injuries and are less costly that repairing an injury
· Wear a helmet – Helmets absorb the energy of an impact
· Wear protective eyewear – Eyes are extremely vulnerable in contact sports
· Wear a face shield to avoid scratched or bruised skin – Hockey pucks, basketballs, baseballs and racquetballs can do severe damage
To learn more sports safety tips and which mouth guard is appropriate for your child, visit www.braces.org.