Athlete’s Mouth?!

Athlete's Mouth?!

Could you imagine football without helmets, soccer without shin pads or even basketball without a hole cut out of the bottom of the basket? It’s amazing to consider the evolution of sports equipment – from where games started and where they have come.
In 1947, a major breakthrough was made when Los Angeles dentist Rodney O. Lilyquist used transparent acrylic resin to form the first acrylic splint. This mouthguard was molded to fit over the upper and lower teeth and made for a much more unobtrusive object. During this time, dental injuries were responsible for around 24-50% of all American football injuries. The Journal of American Dental Association picked up Lilyquist’s technique, which led to nationwide recognition. Dick Perry, a UCLA basketball player, was the first known athlete to use an acrylic mouthguard. Later on Frankie Albert, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was the first known professional athlete to wear this type of mouthguard.
Methicillin Resistant staph Aureus (MRSA) has been found in locker rooms, wrestling mats, on athletic equipment, athlete’s hands, footballs, basketballs, and on artificial turf. Athletes are being exposed to MRSA and other pathogenic bacteria by touching these germy items.
If you watch sports like I do, you will notice that team players get inventive when it comes to removing their mouthguard and putting it somewhere they shouldn’t. Ever since mouthguards were invented and it became mandatory for athletes to wear them, they have wondered where to put them when they weren’t in their mouth. They have placed it over their ear or on their football helmet’s face mask. I’ve watched UFC fighters pick their mouth-guard off the mat before putting it back in his or her mouth.
From amateurs to professionals, the piece of sports equipment that is meant to prevent dental injuries may be introducing pathogenic bacteria into their bodies.
While I’m not aware of any athletes becoming ill from placing contaminated mouthguards into their mouth, this may warrant further research by microbiologists and Infection Preventionists.
Now I’ve given you something to revel at the next time you watch your favorite sports team. You might just find yourself doing what I often do, yell at the TV, “Don’t put that thing in your mouth!”

About Darrel Hicks

J. Darrel Hicks, B.A., is the author of Wiley Publishing's "Infection Prevention For Dummies", and is nationally recognized as one of the top experts in infection control. Darrel Hicks is also the Past President of the IEHA and is an active member in AHE where he holds the designation of CHESP. View all posts by Darrel Hicks

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