Tag Archives: injury

Maintain Your Mouth Guards!

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Maintain Your Mouth Guard

I’ve always been perplexed by players who don’t wear mouth guards, and even more perplexed by the adults who don’t stay on their young players to properly wear and maintain their mouth guards. Maybe I’m perplexed because of the mouth guard discipline instilled in me when I was learning kickboxing as a teenager. Rule of the gym was – no mouthguard, no spar, and I wanted to spar so I learned to bring a mouth guard to practice and wear it the right way because it doesn’t matter how good the mouth guard is – it won’t do a darn thing if it isn’t worn correctly.

According to the American Dental Association’s May 27th, 2010 article American Dental Association Says Mouthguard Important Piece of Athletic Gear: “The most effective mouthguard should be resilient, tear-resistant and comfortable. It should fit properly, be durable and easy to clean, and not restrict your speech or breathing.” A regular boil-and-bite mouth guard bought from your neighborhood sports supply store will work  to reduce facial and dental injuries, but I would encourage players at all levels to go for a fitted mouth guard. I wore an OPRO Mouth Guard during my high school playing days and I never had a more comfortable mouth guard that I could also speak through.

properly-wornProperly Worn Mouth Guard

The image on the left is a young chid wearing a mouthguard correctly. How do you know that you are wearing the mouthguard correctly? – It fits in your mouth. This should be the easiest piece of equipment to wear correctly besides cleats, but many players wear their mouth guards like the hockey player below.



Improperly Worn Mouth Guard

This is commonly known as the fish hook, and wearing your mouth guard like this is about as effective as an actual fish hook in protecting your teeth. The device designed to protect your teeth will not work as designed if you do not wear it properly!



Maintaining your mouth guard is just as important as wearing it the correct way. The follow pictures are from actual AYL players from various age levels showcasing good mouth guards and not so good mouthguards.

bad-mouthguard_2Bad Mouth Guard #1

This mouth guard has been chewed repeatedly on one side. While this is not the worst mouth guard I’ve seen it is not going to do a great job if the player is hit during a game because the grooves that the teeth are supposed to fit into are no longer there.


bad-mouthguard_3Bad Mouth Guard #2

This mouth guard is a worse version of the one above. I can’t imagine this is even comfortable to wear, which will likely lead to the player fish hooking the mouth guard. While I’ve never found molded plastic to be a particularly tasty substance to chew on I have ground my teeth on mouth guards that I’ve worn if I was stressed out during a game. This mouth guard is not going to protect the player when the player needs it.

bad-mouthguard_1Bad Mouth Guard #3

This is one of the worst mouth guards that my mother photographed. Each side has been bitten repeatedly and there is no way this fits into the player’s mouth as designed. Do not wait to replace your mouth guard when it gets to this point.


good-mouthguard_2 Good Mouth Guard #1

This mouth guard is in excellent condition. Notice that all of the impressed bite marks from the player’s original fitting are still intact, which means the mouth guard will fit comfortably and give the greatest degree of protection that it is designed to provide.


good-mouthguard_1 Good Mouth Guard #2

This mouthguard is even better than the one above, and the player has a back up mouth guard! Both mouth guards have been molded to his teeth, and they are kept in a container so they don’t get squished by other gear or stepped on while the player is suiting up. This player is probably going to save his mom and dad a lot of money in dental bills if he wears these nice mouth guards properly.


The April 1st, 2013 ADA Press Release Play it Safe: Prevent Facial Injuries With Simple Sports Safety Precautions noted a disturbing result of a AAO (American Association of Orthodontists) survey: “67% of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports. This raises a question: if mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to help dramatically decrease the risk of oral injuries, why aren’t more kids wearing them?”

I have an answer to that question: it is because mouth guards are not expensive.

I’ve seen returning players come into a spring season with brand-spanking new lacrosse gear. Brand new gloves, shiny helmets, top of the line arm pads, and cleats designed to “accelerate” them on the field. But they still have the same mouthguard they used when they started three years ago. Mouth guards should be the least expensive piece of required equipment that parents need to purchase for their young players. Sadly, many parents will shell out a couple hundred dollars each year on new equipment, but leave the mouth guard off the new gear list because, hey, it’s just a mouth guard. Well, if you or your player think that then here are two fun images for you all to think about:
Busted Teeth


Get a good mouth guard. Maintain it. Wear it correctly
… and you’ll lower your chances at having to shell out a few thousand in corrective dental work

Featured Image Credit – http://www.dentalgentlecare.com/dental_tip_april.htm (Apparently this post is well timed as April is National Facial Protection Month!)


Absorbing Hits And Falling Down

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In my “Kids Need To Get Hurt” post I argued that in order to deal with pain kids need to experience pain, but I rarely argue a stance without providing what I think is a possible solution to the problem.

First, we need to state the problem and here is what I think the problem is:

Kids need to be protected from pain and injury but still have fun doing what they love to do

Here is my problem with the above problem – it is impossible to protect anyone from everything. Since the ground is hard and solid enough to support a person’s weight, it is also hard and solid enough to cause injury if a person falls onto it. Since we can’t get protect children against the laws of physics we must work with the laws.

Here is my solution to the protect children from injury while letting them have fun problem:

Kids need to learn how to absorb impacts to lessen their chance of injury while still having fun doing what they love to do

Since we cannot take protection to the logical extreme of placing all children in padded rooms and forcing them to use virtual presence devices to interact with people outside of their padded rooms, we should be teaching children how to fall down safely.

I officiate every age level of lacrosse and very few players know how to fall down properly. When they get hit or trip themselves up they instinctively reach out with their arms. Unfortunately, this action causes them to fracture fingers, forearms, elbows, and collarbones. A straightened arm is a rigid structure with very little “give”. The players who don’t straighten out an arm to brace for impact don’t do anything at all, and they hit the ground with a sickening thud, which whiplashes their head into the ground. Now they are dealing with spine, neck, and cranial injuries along with a potential concussion.

All because no one ever taught them how to override their natural instincts when falling down.

I spent six years training in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing to learn how to better defend myself. What may surprise many people is that most self-defense classes start with the lesson on how to fall down if someone pushes you over. The reasoning is simple: it is very hard to defend yourself if you get pushed over and smack the back of your head against the concrete. You’ll be dazed, and unable to prevent the coming beating. In order to avoid this scenario, self-defense classes teach individuals how to hit the ground hard without impacting their head with a high amount of force.

The video below explains how to perform a break fall when hit from the front, and how to perform a roll through when hit from behind or the sides. If players practice these moves on a padded surface enough times, they will develop muscle memory that will kick in if they get hit or tripped on the lacrosse field. I played for ten years and I hit the ground a lot, but I never sustained serious injuries because I knew how to roll through contact with the ground and pop right back up.

A key point to remember about these techniques – You will get hurt when you perform them on a hard surface. That is the point. Your entire body will hurt and be extremely sore, but the one part of your body that will be almost unaffected is your head.

I believe the above video is one potential solution to the problem of kids getting hurt playing a contact sport. They may still get hurt performing a break fall or a roll through, but their chances of getting seriously injured are lessened as the force from the impact is dissipated over their entire body and not on their head or extremities.

We can’t keep protecting kids from everything that may hurt them. What we can do is responsibly teach them that there are dangerous things out in the world and how to deal with them.


Kids Need To Get Hurt

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When you work as a sports official you get used to people sensationalizing just about anything:

  • “If you don’t call that ref someone is going to get killed!”
  • “You must be the single worst official I have ever seen!”
  • “You aren’t keeping my players safe!”
  • “What did I [the coach] do? I didn’t do anything wrong, and if you say I did then you’re a liar!”

Context is huge is officiating. So when I see a sensationalized news story that either does not research the full context of a story, or eliminates a key piece of information that provides context, I like to wait and see what else comes out.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/10/07/long-island-middle-school-bans-footballs-other-recreational-items/ – This is the article that broke the story of a Long Island middle school banning “footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds.” As to be expected, every internet keyboard warrior came out in droves and responded to this article. Some stated that is this proof of the wussification of America, while others said that you can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting children. When I first read this article I had a strong reaction to it because the article was written in a way to get me to have a strong reaction and drive up viewership and comments on the article’s website. However, this CBS Local New York author did not include a major part which actually explains the situation more reasonably.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/09/living/parents-middle-school-bans-balls-recess/index.html – I waited one day, and sure enough a report from correspondent and editor-at-large Kelly Wallace actually put the sensationalized story into context. Apparently the Local CBS writer could not find the school’s press release stating that the ban on “footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds,” was also started due to construction nearby. Forcing kids to play their familiar and fun games in much closer proximity to one another, which increased the potential for injury. “Soft nerf balls will be provided during recess, and kids can play with hardballs during gym and intramural athletics” reported Kelly Wallace. That means that the ban that was sensationalized by the earlier article was really just a ban on items that could cause injury due to kids getting packed together because of the construction near the school.

Now, my beef with the CNN article is that while it provided much needed context about the school’s decision to ban fun things to play with at recess, it also had a sensational title. My tenth grade english teacher taught me that titles need to be exciting enough to grab the reader’s attention, but also tell the reader what they will read. Here is what both articles should have titled their reporting with:

Long Island Middle School Bans Hard Balls At Recess Due To Dangerous Construction Activity

See what I did there? It is still a punchy and exciting title, but it provides much needed context to a hot-button issue. Aside from the title, I have no problems with Kelly Wallace’s article. I do have an issue with just about everything in the CBS Local article, and here are a few sentences I have a problem with:

  • “Without helmets and pads, children are much more susceptible to getting hurt, experts said.” – Wow. I feel dumber after reading that. Of course pads and helmets protect children. Heck, they protect everyone! I’m still not going to put a kid in padded armor just so he or she can leave the house unattended or cross the street by themselves.
  • “They have instituted a ban on footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds.” – Let’s examine that last point about anything that might hurt someone. That implies that schools should consider eliminating all hard surfaces kids could run into, sharp objects that kids could poke themselves with, small objects that kids could choke on, and hot foods that kids could burn their mouths with. The world is a dangerous place, and you can’t protect a child from everything. I’d rather the kid learn to not run full speed into a concrete wall when he’s four because the memory of not doing something that foolish will be burned into his mind for the rest of his life.
  • Both articles quoted Port Washington Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Maloney stating, “Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious, so we want to make sure our children have fun, but are also protected.” I believe Dr. Maloney needs to choose her words more carefully because any injury can “unintentionally” become very serious. I have seen kids fall after a very soft hit, but they break their collarbone because they hit the ground in a weird way. I’ve also seen players take a cross-check directly to their helmet and absorb the hit without injury. There is a huge range when it comes to injuries, but the only way to prevent “unintentional” injuries is to keep kids in padded rooms with a helmet on and no interaction with other human beings. Hopefully they won’t “unintentionally” go crazy from the lack of contact with other people.
  • “The Port Washington district said the softer foam balls put students in the best situation to cut down the chance of getting injured.” – The Port Washington district’s stance on soft foam balls misses a key provision. Say a bunch of kids are playing touch football with the soft nerf ball. One kid jumps up to catch the ball, but doesn’t stick the landing. His awkward landing breaks his leg, which lands him in the Emergency Room, and he has to wear a cast for the next four months. The soft nerf ball did not cut down on his change of getting injured, and I contend that kids have a fair chance at breaking a leg whether they play with a regular football or a soft one.

I am an official. My job is keeping players safe, but I always know that players can get injured on legal plays just as they can get injured on illegal plays. The only way to keep players from getting hurt playing the game they love is to not let them play the game.

The originator of lacrosse rules, William George Beers, said it best – “no game is worth a fig if it has not some spice of danger”. I believe kids need to learn how to get hurt. Otherwise they never learn how to deal with pain.

Featured Image Credit – www.betadadblog.com