Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Trojan Teeth

Nice smile.
Hope he keeps it.

In a just-published article in the Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers reported on the incidence of dental injuries in athletes playing for the University of Southern California Trojans from 1996-2005.

Those of you who read the blogs last month about mouthguard use can guess which sport had the highest dental injury rate for both men’s and women’s athletics.

Yep, it was basketball.

During the years this study took place, USC fielded 19 teams in 15 different sports. Compared with football, soccer, baseball and all other sports, men’s and women’s basketball had the highest dental injury rate.

While this study is limited by the small number of athletes followed, it does report two important findings.

We already know the first finding - that there is a higher incidence of dental injuries in basketball for both boys and girls. This has been found in different studies from different countries.
The other interesting finding is related to the effect that mouthguard use might have on basketball athlete’s dental safety.

In 2000, (in the middle of this study) the USC women’s basketball program instituted a team-wide policy requiring all players to wear a mouthguard during practices and games.

When the authors reviewed their data, they found that this policy corresponded to a 2/3 reduction in the incidence rate of dental injuries for the women players.

While the number of players is too small and the study is not set up to prove the point, this would support the theory that wearing mouthguards while playing basketball does reduce your risk of serious dental injury.

Basketball players historically have complained that mouthguards bother them when they play. Some felt (and still feel) that it limits their game, too. But modern-day mouthguards don’t have to be uncomfortable and they may even make some players feel safer and play quicker and more aggressively.

So did wearing mouthguards affect the USC Women’s team performance?
During the first 4 seasons studied (before mouthguards were required) they had a record of 55-58. Their record over the next 6 years was 93-86. Not much difference in the won/loss columns but probably a significant difference in dentist bills.

So what will OJ Mayo do as he starts his Freshman year at USC? If he’s smart, he’ll wear a mouthguard and take care of his bubblegum card smile.

What will YOU do the next time you or your players take the court?

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