Friday, January 29, 2010

Emmitt Smith and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) Are Teaming Up to Prevent Sports-Related Injuries Among Kids

NOTE FROM SUSAN: Sports-related injuries are very common among children. My oldest son required stitches in his forehead when he was pushed into a wall during a basketball game, and my niece and nephew have had several broken bones and teeth between them while engaged in sports. As you’ll read below, kids and sports are often a dangerous combination, especially if proper safety equipment isn’t used. The following information comes from the American Association of Orthodontists, which is working with football hero Emmitt Smith to spread the word about ensuring that kids use mouth guards and other safety equipment while playing sports.

Kids are at risk for serious injuries on the playing field, but coaches and parents are standing on the sidelines. Mouth guards are a small piece of safety gear that can provide big protection, but not all athletes are heeding this warning. To get the message out, former football great and father of four, Emmitt Smith, has teamed with the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) for a sport safety campaign. The campaign works to educate parents, coaches and kids on the importance of using facial protection during organized and recreational sports.

Injuries can happen at any age or skill level – More than half of the seven million sports- and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by youth between ages 5 and 24. (From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Collision and contact sports have higher injury rates, and mouth guards should be worn in all contact sports. Specifically, baseball, soccer, basketball and football account for about 80% of all sports-related emergency room visits for children between 5 and 14 years of age. (From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Mouth guard use is very low – 67% of parents surveyed said that their child does not wear a mouth guard – yet, 70% said that their biggest fear when their child plays organized sports is that they will get hurt. (From the AAO)

One out of every four (27%) parents surveyed said their child has sustained an injury during an organized sport that resulted in a trip to the emergency room. (From the AAO)

Most coaches and leagues are not advising the use of mouth guards
– Of the parents whose children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports, including practice, 84% said it’s because the league or coach does not require it. (From the AAO)

Hard hits occur no matter what the sport
– The average high school baseball pitcher can throw a fast ball between 75-85 miles per hour. At this rate, being hit in the mouth with a baseball can be compared to being hit in the mouth by a speeding car on the highway. (From

Cheerleading is one of the most dangerous sports for women, accounting for 65% of all catastrophic injuries in high school girls’ athletics. (From

Children with braces need to wear mouth guards – One out of every three (31%) parents reported that their child had orthodontic treatment or braces while playing an organized sport. (From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Lacerations can easily be sustained if an orthodontic patient’s mouth comes in contact with a ball or the ground and is not properly protected.

Some mouth and jaw injuries can result in a lifetime of orthodontic work to correct damage that could have easily been avoided.

Below are tips from the AAO on how young athletes can better protect their face and smile while on the court, field or ice.

Wear a mouth guard.
Mouth guards can help prevent jaw, mouth and teeth injuries and are less costly than repairing damage caused by a collision or fall. For athletes with braces, discuss with your orthodontist the best type of mouth guard for your sport and any additional safety precautions necessary to avoid lacerations or dental trauma.

Wear a helmet. Helmets absorb the energy of an impact. Helmets should be worn for recreational activities like biking, skateboarding and in-line skating as well. To find out more on the helmet laws in your state, visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website.

Wear protective eyewear.
Eyes are extremely vulnerable to injury during sports like soccer, baseball and hockey. Injuries can be caused by flying objects or by a fellow athlete’s elbow.

Wear a face shield
to avoid scratched or bruised skin. Hockey pucks, basketballs and racquetballs can do severe damage.

Also, keep in mind the following:

Stretch before and after a game or practice. This can reduce the risk of pulling or straining a muscle. Work with your coach and teammates to develop a stretching routine that best suits your sport.

Be observant even as a spectator.
Stay alert while watching a game to avoid foul baseballs and flying hockey pucks coming your way. Also, watch your step when climbing bleachers.

Use good judgment.
If an activity carries risk of dental or facial injury, gear up. Without it, a pick-up game of basketball or flag football could result in a trip to the emergency room.

For more information on the AAO and Emmitt Smith, visit There you can find a free downloadable poster of Emmitt Smith and more information on how kids and adults can “Play It Safe.” Find us on Twitter (@braces) and Facebook (


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