Sports-related injuries happen. They’re probably more likely than you think, too. In the year 2000, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported the following rates of injuries by sport:
- Bicycles and accessories: 425,910
- General exercise: 377,939
- ATVs, mopeds: 229,974
- Skateboards, scooters: 217,646
- Basketball: 214,847
- Football: 122,181
- Soccer : 81,452
- Baseball, softball: 70,209
- Lacrosse, rugby: 29,134
While some of these injuries can’t be necessarily avoided, say ligament and muscle tears due to improper footing and illegal hits, the likelihood of some injuries can be lessened with the use of protective sports gear.
From wrestling headgear to custom mouth guards to athletic cups for baseball and proper shin pads for soccer, it’s imperative that an athlete wear the right protective sports gear for their sport.
1. Brain injuries are no joke.
When it comes to high-speed and contact sports, injuries are always a risk. The way we protect ourselves is by preparing: taking precautions that reduce the risk of us getting injured in the first place. For many of these sports, the simplest way to protect ourselves is by wearing a helmet.
The statistics can sound scary. But knowing that a helmet can help to reduce your risk of injury is reassuring. The sheer prevalence of head injuries in a sport like cycling, for instance, is one of the highest, but the use of a cycling helmet has been shown to reduce:
- Head injuries by 48%
- Serious head injuries by 60%
- Traumatic brain injuries by 53%
The complexity of concussions, CTE’s and injuries, stems from the idea that traumatic forces can occur from several different angles and speeds - making it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of injury. There is some research that suggests having additional padding and shock absorption within the mouth and the surrounding jaw, head and neck muscles may also help to reduce the risk of these injuries. GuardLab’s patented ARC™ Mouthguard is our most scientifically advanced mouthguard with two “alignment, repositioning, cushions” built into the mouthguard to provide added support, balance and neuromuscular alignment to the wearer. No one can promise that a concussion will never happen, so even if there is a small chance of improvement, it may be worth adding it to your safety gear.
Similarly, as technology continues to improve around helmets, including sensors within helmets and sensors within mouthguards, the risk of concussions and brain injuries should hopefully decrease as more data is collected and analyzed.
When it comes to helmets, what should an athlete look for?
Cyclists want a helmet that is, most of all, approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). They are a federal regulatory agency that sets protective standards for safety equipment, ensuring that it meets standards that the product is marketed as providing. It’s important that a bicycle helmet has the CPSC sign off, as it’s an apparent sign that the helmet will be reliable in the event of a crash.
Moreover, the helmet should fit properly: The strap should sit tightly under the chin and firmly on the head, and it should have no wiggle room when moving your head side to side. If you’re unsure how a helmet is supposed to fit, visit a cycling specialty shop and ask to be fitted by the staff.
Photo: @shaynatexter Shana Texter Bauman
2. Dental accidents are reduced with mouthguards.
It’s recommended that athletes wear a mouthguard when participating in contact or contact-adjacent sports: boxing, football, lacrosse, mixed-martial arts, basketball, baseball, wrestling, and volleyball.
The best thing an athlete can do is get a mouthguard that properly fits their mouth. You’ll want to be sure your mouthguard is securely in place (not hanging out of your mouth) as an ill-fitting mouthguard will fail to protect you when you need it the most. Mouthguards should be covering all of the teeth, and the soft tissue area above your teeth for optimal protection and comfort. It should never feel loose; instead, it should be properly seated on your upper teeth at all times. Our customers love the tight, impeccable fit of their GuardLab mouthguards because you can breathe, talk and even drink without having to remove them!
A great option for athletes looking for a proper fit is our APEX™ boil and bite mouthguard. Unlike other store-bought mouthguards, our boil and bite guards come with our patented pre-indented APEX™ Bite Pattern. This unique design makes it easier and faster to mold the mouthguard for a closer fit. The APEX Guard is also pre-formed to replicate the shape of a custom mouthguard, so you won’t need to trim it down. It’s a far better option than a generic mouthguard, where “one size fits all” is bound to fit improperly, usually too large or bulky, or too small and uncomfortable. Choose one of our 3 sizes (Small, Medium, or Large) for the most realistic fit and trust that our guards will feel contoured and comfortable - like it should!
Parents may have trouble convincing their children to wear a GuardLab, as undoubtedly, they have had bad experiences trying to wear poorly constructed mouthguards. A simple way to get them to wear theirs is to give them a choice among cool mouth guards. By giving them an accessory that feels personal and cool, they’ll feel more compelled to want to wear it — which is all you can ask for when trying to protect their teeth. All of our APEX™ Guards are 100% customizable: you have complete control over the colors, text, and graphics. We suggest surprising your child with their Name + Number in their favorite color, along with anything else they’d love to see.
Designing a personalized, one-of-a-kind mouthguard is easy with GuardLab. Our Custom Design app lets every customer have full control over the look of their mouth piece. Best of all, you’ll receive a mouthguard made right here in the USA, getting a custom-made mouthguard fit just for you.
Besides wearing a mouthguard, you’ll also want to make sure that you properly clean and store it. Bacteria build up on mouthguards when they’re not in our mouth, so it’s important to rinse it every day and clean it once a week with our travel-sized mouthguard cleaning spray. You also need to store it in your GuardLab mouthguard case, where it’s safe and you can find it, too. This is especially true when you have dogs.
Dogs love mouthguards and night guards because they’re chewy and smell like you. Your kid gets back and puts their mouthguard on the kitchen counter; then BOOM — you turn your back and your dog snags their mouthguard and starts going to town on it. Instead, have a personal case where you store your mouthguard to ensure it remains clean, safe, and out of the wrong mouths.
3. You should protect your eyes.
Over 600,000 eye injuries happen each year due to playing sports. From basketball to football, eye poke injuries happen frequently. In some other sports, such as tennis, hockey, and baseball, it can include getting a puck or ball to the eye, too.
To protect yourself against these injuries, it’s important to wear eye protection. While not everyone will feel comfortable wearing eye protection, it’s necessary depending on the sport you play. For instance, racquetball players wear eye protection due to the enclosed space, the small, fast-moving ball, and more. Their risk of eye-injury is heightened.
Similarly, hockey players have started wearing enclosed metal masks or plastic visors in front of their helmets to protect their eyes, noses, and faces against flying pucks or high sticks.
The choice of whether you decide to wear added protection is up to you. It depends on what you’re comfortable wearing for your sport. Some football players will be comfortable wearing a visor while baseball players prefer having a cage on the front of their helmet; however, there are other players who will see it as antithetical to the sport.
Whatever your choice, make the decision based on your risk and your personal preference. Even if others judge you for wearing added protection, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
4. Joint injuries are common.
An estimated 2.2 million Americans suffer knee injuries due to sports-related instances every year. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only type of joint injury.
Joint injuries are common in sports due to one reason: We rely on our joints for movement. We use our knees, hips, and ankles to run — we also use our elbows and shoulders in the process! There lies the crux of the issue: We rely on our joints for movement, and sudden, fast movements put a lot of stress on our joints. Moreover, people attempting to stop us in a contact spot tend to aim for our joints, as that is the simplest way to halt movement, especially while running.
What seemed like a simple layup can turn into a blown-out ankle. What you thought was a simple sideline run can turn into a torn ACL and a broken tibia. What was just another fastball pitch can become a torn rotator cuff.
So how do you protect yourself against certain joint injuries? For one, the simplest way is to ensure that you’re properly loosened up. Shoulder and elbow injuries tend to happen, more often than not, due to tight muscles and ligaments — you try to throw a baseball as hard as you can, and then your arm is busted.
Second, you need to make sure that you’re practicing proper form. An improper jump, lunge, or sprawl could lead to a serious ankle, knee, or wrist injury — depending on how you land. Our scientifically advanced ARC ™ Mouthguards are based in neuromuscular science and overall proper body alignment can be improved when the head, neck and jaw muscles are strengthened and supported. This is why many MLB athletes, like Liam Hendriks, our newest Brand Ambassador is using a GuardLab mouthguard everytime he pitches and at practice
Last, it’s worth considering wearing protective gear around your joints. Knee pads are especially important in football and wrestling; shin pads are imperative for soccer players; and padded gloves are necessary for lacrosse and hockey players, as they’re holding sticks and their hands are open to potential injury.
5. Wear the right shoes.
While you may not consider them to be protective gear, the right shoes should be thought of as such. That’s why runners need to always wear shoes meant for their gait, arch strength, and knee mobility. The same goes for all other sports.
Shoes are designed sport by sport. For instance, wrestling shoes are very different from tennis shoes, while football cleats are incredibly different from baseball cleats. Different athletes require different types of traction and grip; also, their sports require varying forms of movement — tennis players are moving laterally more often, while wrestlers need lightweight, flexible shoes with a lot of grip.
A closing point: Remember to warm up.
Before we end, it’s a good reminder that you take precautions when exercising. That involves wearing the right protecting gear to keep yourself safe. The simplest way to protect your body is to warm up prior to exercising and competing.
A tight muscle and ligament can lead to serious musculoskeletal injuries, so it’s important to always set aside time to warm up before. The simplest warmup involves:
- Light jogging until you break a sweat
- Performing dynamic stretches to get your muscles limber
- Following those with static stretches, once the muscles are loose
- Continuous movement until you are ready to compete or exercise to ensure your body remains warm
By warming up, you can at least avoid basic injuries brought about through exercise and competition. Pairing that with good form and proper protection, such as helmets and mouthguards, you can properly protect yourself against potential injuries.
David Harraez Calzada/Shutterstock
Before your next athletic event, make sure to gear up. With the right protective gear, you can protect your body for the long run.