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Protecting Young Athletes

Protecting Young Athletes

The first week of school and the National Facial Protection Month are both a great time for a reminder of just how important head, face and mouth guards are in protecting our kids from serious injuries. Here are some surprising statistics that might just make you sprint directly to the nearest sports store for protective gear:

• The Centers for Disease Control says over half of the 7 million annual sports and recreation injuries happen to kids as young as five years.
• The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation recently estimated 3 million teeth would be knocked out during a single year.
• 84 percent of children, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, do not wear mouth guards because they are not required.

However we know that these inexpensive investments can save countless teeth and jaws-and trips to the emergency room or dentist office. Here are some simple, effective protection devices that can help our kids play safer:

1. Mouth guards. Whether they are over the counter or custom-fit by an orthodontist, these plastic protective pieces hold teeth in place and help prevent tearing while still allowing athletes to breathe and talk normally.
2. Helmets. Brain injuries are no laughing matter. A blow to the head can permanently affect a child’s life. Helmets absorb energy during impact and prevent damage to the sensitive brain.
3. Protective eyewear. Contact sports make one of our most prominent features-our eyes-even more vulnerable to an unintentional elbow, accidental finger poke or dangerous interaction with equipment. Special eyewear can cover these precious parts while still allowing kids to compete effectively.
4. Face shield. Especially important in sports like hockey and lacrosse, where hard pucks and balls can quickly cause damage, face shields can be used in a variety of sports to further protect kids from the inevitable shot to the face.

Buying protective devices is step one. Encouraging children to wear them for games and practice is step two. The final step is telling more friends and families. Together, we can all stay a little safer in our sports of choice.

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