Saturday 21 April 2018

Children's sports: How mouthguards can help to save face

Good example: it is compulsory to wear helmets in hurling, as young players Conor O’Driscoll and Kate McCarthy demonstrate.
Now there is a campaign to also try and make mouthguards compulsory for children who play contact sports
Good example: it is compulsory to wear helmets in hurling, as young players Conor O’Driscoll and Kate McCarthy demonstrate. Now there is a campaign to also try and make mouthguards compulsory for children who play contact sports

The majority of children who suffer facial injuries during contact sports damage their permanent teeth, according to new research. It found that one-in-10 of the youngsters surveyed suffered facial injury and 87pc involved permanent teeth.

The research was carried out by Margaret O'Malley, an oral health promoter in Castlebar, Co Mayo, who wanted to find out how many children use mouthguards.

"I found that contact sports play an important role in children's lives, yet mouthguard usage is low at just 22pc.

"The main reason given for not using a mouthguard is that it isn't compulsory for all contact sports.

"Parents, schools and sporting organisations, locally and nationally, need to be made aware of the importance of dental protection. Facial and dental trauma are serious matters and their consequences can be long term and expensive."

One-thousand questionnaires were sent to 25 national schools in the HSE West area, which extends from Donegal to North Tipperary. The findings showed:

- Ninety-five per cent of pupils are engaged in sport and over two-thirds of children (67pc) play between one and three sports.

- Twenty-two per cent of pupils confirmed they wore mouthguards while playing contact sports.

The number who wore mouthguards varied among sports: soccer -- five per cent; rugby -- 60pc.

- Sixty-eight per cent of children reported their sports club did not have a policy on mouthguard usage, while 69pc of schools have no such policy.

- Fifty-eight per cent of the injuries were treated by dental practitioners; 42pc went to the A&E of the local hospital.

- The average cost of emergency dental treatment was €214.23.

Ms O'Malley, whose work won the O'Mullane prize, said: "There are very clear steps that can be taken to increase the numbers wearing mouthguards.

"For example, the introduction of a national policy on the compulsory wearing of mouthguards for all contact sports, which should be implemented by all sporting umbrella organisations.

"Also, club and school insurance policies could incentivise the wearing of mouthguards for contact sports. Most importantly, we need to raise awareness so that in the absence of a national policy, measures can be taken to improve the safety of our children."

Keeping kids safe during sports

Use shin pads, knee pads, mouthguards or helmets.

Stop if a child is in pain, feeling dizzy or faint, feels sick or very tired.

Avoid exercise, or only train very lightly, if the child is unwell.

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