Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Lakers Have No 'Guards

Mouth guards, that is.

A few weeks ago, a reader wrote " Hi. I've seen a few of your blog posts on the importance of wearing mouthguards. I even got one myself a few months ago. Now, in watching the NBA Finals, I made a point of counting the number of players who were wearing mouthguards. And.. I only counted two: Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis. I didn't see anybody else. What gives?

Knowing that several players wear clear mouth guards that aren't easy to spot, I decided to first find out if this reader's count was true.

After speaking with the Head Athletic Trainers for both the Lakers and the Magic (special thanks to Gary Vitti and Tom Smith for their time), I was disappointed to hear that only 4 players on the Magic (Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Adonal Foyle & Tony Battie) wear mouth guards on a regular basis. (I was also impressed by the readers astute observation).

Worse, NONE of the LA Lakers wear mouth guards! (Not even Pau Gasol who has braces on his teeth and is just one elbow away from some severe lip shredding).

I learned that several Lakers (including Kobe) have tried wearing mouth guards but have chosen not to wear them.

So What gives?

If they're like their counterparts in other countries (where research has been done to better understand why professional basketball players choose to not wear mouth guards), it's either because they feel they can't breath, speak, or play as well when their mouthguards in place.

And what about professional football players (who all wear mouthguards), boxers, and other sports where everyone uses mouthguards? They wear them because they are required to and, more importantly, have worn them since they were young (and hence, they've gotten used to the feeling).

To be honest, I'm disappointed that so few players on these two teams wear mouth guards. I wish they had the foresight to protect themselves from some serious harm, but it's a free country and, for now at least, the NBA, NCAAA, NHSAA and AAU don't require it (but maybe they should start - Research has shown that dental injuries in basketball happen 13 times more often than dental injuries in football).

It would be interesting to do some research on NBA players and their use (and feelings about using) mouth guards during practice and games. If there are any aspiring dental researchers out there, send me an e-mail at

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