Sporting mouthguards are primarily there to protect teeth and undoubtedly they are crucial for sports such as boxing when the mouth is an obvious target for a big swinging fist.
However, it may be their potential role in other sports has been understated for some time. While impacts to the mouth, face and head are an obvious element of boxing, they are also issues of increasing concern in football and rugby.
Football, of course, is often betrayed by players making a meal of even minor contact, such as Tottenham player Son Heung-Min in a controversial incident at the weekend. Yet that same day, there was an incident in another game that led to a player taking a boot in the face.
Whether that might have been a penalty or not, it was the sort of event that could cause both concussion and a major dental injury, requiring significant orthodontic work.
Both football and rugby recently agreed to trails using mouthguards to study the impacts suffered by players on their heads. In the case of football, this is mainly about the possible effects of heading the ball rather than physical contact, with concern it can lead to a higher rate of dementia in later life. In Rugby, as in Boxing, blows to the head are a consequence of it being primarily contact sport.
At the same time, players in various sports will need to ensure their teeth are protected as well as their heads. This is accomplished in some sports by the wearing of helmets – such as cricket and American football, with the former now seeing grills in place to prevent facial injuries.
For those with dental issues to start with such as a need to wear braces, mouthguards are even more important in sport. This is as applicable at school and junior level as it is at the highest level.
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