Youth sports are crucial to youth development – but this is also a leading cause of oral and facial trauma.
Not too long ago, only the hitter, catcher and umpire wore facemasks during youth softball and baseball games. But times have changed. Today, boys and girls on the field can be seen wearing masks under their caps. This precaution helps them to protect their faces from a fast-moving ball.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons agree that this extra precaution is a good idea. We see the damage sports activities can cause. According to estimates provided by the American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, five million teeth are knocked out each year. The Association also estimates that one out of every three dental injuries is sports-related, and nearly one out of every five head or face injuries is sports-related.
It’s a fact that oral surgeons often have very strong backgrounds in athletics. So while it’s arguable that no one loves sports more than oral surgeons, we also want athletes (especially young ones) to play safely.
Athletes can easily wear protective gear, avoid injury and remain competitive. Which is why Congress elected April as National Facial Protection Month – oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the individuals who urged this designation and we are happy to remind the public about it every year.
We believe the solution is pretty simple: Always wear helmets, facemasks and mouth guards, while playing sports. And while you play, stay alert while competing. That recommendation should be doubled for contact sports like football. But even other sports not typically associated with contact, such as cycling or volleyball, can easily lead to serious facial trauma and dental injury under the wrong circumstances.
If the surgeons’ message (which will be repeated this April) gets heard by parents and coaches, then fewer injured kids will have to come into the oral surgeons’ offices, and more young athletes using protective gear while they play. And nothing would make them happier.