High Impact and Shake, Rattle and Roll

We love sports.  Not every person, mind you, but collectively as a nation we are enthralled with sport.  There are many reasons.  The primary reason may be the drama.  Participants put their safety and well being on the line in an attempt to achieve the improbable or even the seemingly impossible.  There is a potential (or a near certainty in some sports) to suffer high impact and because of that, serious injury.  The same vicious hits and spills that put people in the stands and glued to their TV’s also put the participants in real danger.  Most obvious are the broken bones, torn ACL’s and sprained ankles that clutter ESPN broadcasts and end high school athletes’ careers.  Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, however, may have even more serious and long lasting consequences.

Every tackle, header, or hard foul results in some trauma to the brain.  How much long-term damage that results from a hit is a matter of severity.  Recently, much light has been shed on the prevalence and lasting effects of traumatic head injuries.  New research has highlighted the potential for lifelong side effects and controversy has surrounded concussions and their management in professional sports.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, an estimated 1.7 million children and adults in the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. Currently more than 3.1 million children and adults in the U.S. live with a lifelong disability as a result of TBI.

Protective equipment designed to prevent serious injury is essential for safety in athletics and, fortunately, the technology is constantly improving. Helmet technology has come a long way in concussion prevention in the past 10 years.  What many people don’t realize, however, is that many concussions are not caused by direct trauma to the skull but trauma to the mandible, or lower jaw, which transfers the force of the impact to the skull.  This phenomenon can be greatly diminished by wearing a mouth guard.  In addition to protecting your teeth, wearing a properly fitting mouth guard absorbs much of the impact of a blow to the lower jaw and protects your brain from injury.

 

Types of Mouth Guards

  1. Stock
    Stock mouth protectors are inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don’t fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
  2. Boil and bite
    Boil and bite mouth protectors also can be bought at many sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They should be softened in water, then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. If you don’t follow the directions carefully y
    ou can wind up with a poor-fitting mouth protector.
  3. Custom-fitted
    Custom-fitted mouth protectors are made by your dentist for you personally. They are more expensive than the other versions, but because they are customized they can offer a better fit than anything you can buy off the shelf.

 

While custom mouth guards are considered by many to be the most protective option, other mouth guards can be effective if they fit well, are worn properly and stay in place. No matter what type of mouth guard you choose, it is important to check your mouth guard for wear and replace it when necessary.  It is also important to schedule regular dental checkups and bring your mouth guard to each dental visit to ensure proper fit and protection.

Bone crunching hits, head rattling tackles and collisions that send helmets flying are what keep us watching.  Let’s be smart and do what we can to ensure that our heroes and loved ones continue playing for years.  Schedule an appointment for the athletes in your family today!


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