5 March, 2018
Let's talk about Mouthguards
Back in the Summer of 2016 during a gold medal field hockey match at Nationals between team Ontario West and team British Columbia (Island team). With about 8 min left in the game, Shannon Mcroy of Ontario staggered aimlessly towards the ground. The stick of Sarah Moour, a young prospect on team BC that has high potential of playing NCAA struck Mcroy with brute force while trying to get a shot off. Blood started to pool in her hands and on the turf a deep rich crimson red that I had never seen before. It was dark and thick. Trainers from all over came at lightning speed to attend to Mcroy. All us at the bench thought she got a stick too the face and needed stitches, a common injury within the field hockey world. But the outcome turned out to be much worse. She had a broken nose, needed a couple stitches on her face, but what was the worst part? With all the power Moour had put into her backswing and follow through, the impact had knocked out 4 teeth in total. And Mcroy was not able to return till next year.
Mouthguards are currently mandatory within the sport of field hockey. But we are seeing athletes not participate in this rule, so why are refs not being harder on these players and enforcing it more? With the ball being made a 3 inches of thick plastic, and the stick made of carbon, fiberglass and Kevlar. This should not be a debate on whether the athlete chooses to wear one or not. Even with rules in place to protect the athlete accidents happen and that's why we have equipment to ensure an athletes safety in places that need it most. Field hockey is more dangerous than most other sports like soccer or basketball. With a hard stick and ball the injuries are inevitable. A way to reduce the amount of injuries that occur has to start with the refs doing their job.
Would wearing a Mouthguard prevent Mcroy’s injury? Yes. All the blame cannot be on the refs, players choose whether they wear one or not. A spectator of the sport doesn’t necessarily know how fast the ball is really hit and how fast the stick is coming through. It is estimated that the average shot is around 70 km/h. Think about that hard object coming hurtling towards your face. I know from personal experience the damage that can be done. I was defending a shot and the girls follow through came up my stick hit my mouth then caught me right under the eyebrow leaving me with 7 stitches. But my teeth were never harmed because I was reluctantly wearing a mouthguard that day. And that story helps show the significance of wearing a mouthguard, because I can guarantee I would have lost a tooth without one.
The most common serious injuries in field hockey has to do with athletes not wearing mouthguards, every one in four injuries is the player getting a stick or ball to the face or mouth and everytime it results in the loss of a tooth or teeth. I used have a habit of not wearing a mouthguard all the time but since I’ve gotten one that fits my mouth and teeth correctly I have had no problems with it. The issue usually starts when the mouthguard doesn’t fit the players mouth correctly. Which then leads to the athlete being unable to communicate properly with the other players on their team. That was my least favourite part of a mouthguard and since I was a captain communication was a vital part of my role and game.
Since field hockey is such an ancient sport that dates back all the way to 510 BC when the Ancient Greeks played a game very similar, but then in 19th century in England the game was actually created. There has been very little changes to the sport in the past since then (170 years) there has always been a stigma to keep the sport the same as it used to be. For example, they only make right sticks or girls have to wear skirt/ kilts to keep the game traditional. The only thing they have done to modernize the game is adding safety equipment and changing the surface we play on. It took almost 150 years till a rule was implemented to protect the mouths of the athletes that choose to play this sport.
The real question is not if but when. We need to act sooner than later to prevent further injury in this sport. The rule was made for a reason it’s about time we all start following it.