Baseball is hardly a contact sport, but that doesn’t mean there’s no risk of impact-related injuries. We saw a couple of them last week, when two players were beaned on the very same day.
Hit in the chin with a 96 mph fastball, Yankee third baseman Chase Headley needed little more than stitches and a few days off. But Marlins slugger and MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t so lucky. Even though the pitch he was hit with was almost 10 mph slower, Stanton suffered multiple fractures in the bones of his face and, according to the Boston Herald, “broken teeth embedded in his cheek.”
Earlier this week, Stanton shared a photo of the damage on Instagram. It’s not a sight for the squeamish. (Seriously. If you look, don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
Suffice it to say, the call has gone out in support of helmets with faceguards. Headley has already adopted one, as did Braves outfielder Jason Heyward last year when he returned from a similar beaning.
It’s actually kind of amazing that even in sports such as football and hockey, in which there’s a high risk of violent injury, even mouth guards are not always required. Not only do they help protect the teeth against breakage, they help buffer the stress of clenching that often occurs during intense physical exertion and even offer protection against concussions.
This past summer, new research published in General Dentistry showed just how big a difference even the type of mouth guard can make. The researchers compared outcomes for more than 400 high school football players. Half were given custom fitted mouth guards. The others used standard, over-the-counter (OTC) guards.
The rate of concussion injuries were more than double among those who had OTC guards.
Many variables contribute to MTBI/concussion injuries, and mouthguards — whose primary function is protecting the teeth — cannot completely prevent them from occurring. Previous studies have theorized that mouthguards can reduce concussion risk, however, because they help absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw.
Mouthguard thickness also has been shown to be a factor that contributes to the level of protection. The average thickness of the custom-made mouthguards in this study was 3.50 millimeters, while the average thickness of the OTC mouthguards was only 1.65 millimeters.
Why would custom guards work better? For one, they fit properly and so are a lot more comfortable. They can even be designed to facilitate better breathing. (One reason some pro football players have given for rejecting mouth guards is the sense that they interfere with breathing.) Some styles may even boost performance.
Yes, custom costs more, which is why some parents may opt for cheaper OTC devices instead of getting custom fit units for their sports-playing kids, but as we talked about just few weeks ago, you do get what you pay for…