All sports have their associated equipment. Some equipment is used for function. Some is worn for style. Still other pieces are used for safety and protection.
Football is no different. Its players wear helmets, gloves, pads, eye black and cleats with each having its own purpose.
There is one small piece of equipment that is rapidly growing in importance in football and all sports: the mouthguard.
Mouthguard technology has advanced immensely. They are no longer simply pieces of rubber or plastic that you rip out of the package and pop in your mouth. They can be molded to personal, form-fitting specifications both at home or by dentists. The mouthguards of today and the future possess sport-specific features and are expanding into new sports and activities.
An increased understanding of the benefits of mouthguards is leading the advances in high-tech mouthguards. In the past they were seen as basically guards to protect your teeth. This is still true as an athlete is 60 times more likely to damage their teeth if they are not wearing a mouthguard according to the National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries. But there is so much more that such a small piece of equipment does.
Mouthguards also protect against dangerous lacerations in the mouth. They assist in preventing jaw fracture and can protect the TM joint (jaw joint) from dislocation.
"Mouthguards play a pivotal role in protecting athletes," said Jay Turkbas, senior vice president of product development at Shock Doctor. "Shock Doctor is committed to leading the efforts in mouthguard technology, research and education."
Safety and protection are not the only areas that mouthguards improve. Athletes will be happy to know that research is attempting to show that they can increase player performance as well. Some of the beliefs are that a proper mouthguard allows an athlete to breathe and communicate better, will stay in place without creating a distraction to allow the athlete to focus on the game and can provide stability to the jaw for more strength.
This past February, USA Football announced its new relationship with Shock Doctor as its official mouthguard partner. Based near Minneapolis, Shock Doctor is the market and technology leader in mouthguards.
Shock Doctor is participating in the independent non-profit's football and training events across the country serving youth league commissioners, coaches and players. The company provides educational material on the importance of protective equipment such as mouthguards. Shock Doctor mouthguards will also protect the national governing body's national teams after already supplying mouthguards for USA Football's Team USA vs. The World Game presented by Riddell.
"As the official mouthguard of USA Football, Shock Doctor is committed to providing youth football players with mouthguards that provide the highest level of protection," said Turkbas. "We support USA Football in providing training and education to players, coaches and officials. Shock Doctor was also honored to support USA Football's recent 'Team USA vs. The World' game and to provide our state-of-the-art mouthguards to all the players."
Youth football coaches, parents and players need to be aware of the growing importance of mouthguards. Not only do they need to know the safety and performance benefits, but also how to choose the right mouthguard. Shock Doctor and USA Football provide some tips to follow:
- Make sure the mouthguard fits tight yet comfortably without affecting breathing or speaking.
- Mouthguards of optimum thickness, such as multi-layer mouthguards, absorb more impact.
- A mouthguard designed to protect the lower teeth can provide additional protection for certain sports.
Armed with the proper mouthguard, a youth player will be able to add to the estimated 200,000 injuries that are prevented each year as a result of mouthguards.