Ask Santa for a gumshield this year

Dublin footballer Stephen Cluxton during a fitting for new customised gumshields.

Dublin footballer Stephen Cluxton during a fitting for new customised gumshields.

Many parents of young sports people are perhaps wondering what to get their children for Christmas, and although slightly left of centre, the one that could perhaps save parents a few thousand euro is a gumshield. They are also known as mouthguards and, if you or your child play contact sport, they should be a compulsory part of everyone's kit - just as important as boots, runners, or hurl or hockey stick. A simple rule for a manager, player, or parent could be: no gumshield, no play. I always wore one from underage up to retirement and on more than one occasion that moulded bit of plastic protecting my mouth and teeth was the difference between heading for a post match shower and a bite to eat or the dentist's chair. If players do not want to wear one for mature, logical, protective, and proactive reasons, then they are being silly and the GAA agrees. Mouthguards compulsory from January 2013 The association is taking a hard line, and rightly so, on the absence of mouthguards from January 2013. Indeed the initiative that sees the GAA following sports like hockey and rugby, and making the wearing of mouthguards compulsory for u-18s down through all the underage ranks (starting on January 1, 2013 ) has been well received. The regulation will not be enforced on adults until January 2014, but most adults should know the benefits of wearing one at this stage. Wearing a gumshield - that is what we called them - or a mouthguard, should be a no-brainer. And while it does take few games or a few training sessions to adapt to them and regulate your breathing if you have never worn one before, they are well worth the effort. A recent study found that the average cost of dental treatment for sport related injuries in children to be €213. Other studies have shown that the overall risk of damage is close to twice as high when a mouthguard was not worn, as compared to when they are used. It will be up to the referee during games to see if players are wearing mouthguards. And if the eagle eyed referee notices that a player is not wearing one, he/she is cautioned. And if the "offender" persists in not wearing the mouth/teeth protection, he/she is sent off. However, surely the primary responsibility to make this initiative work rests with the parents. Any parents who allow their progeny to play reasonably high impact sports such as camogie, hurling, rugby, football, soccer, basketball or whatever, should surely ensure that their children's teeth are protected as best as possible. There is a onus on underage coaches too as regards insisting that those children in their care are properly kitted out and that includes a mouthguard. A youngster is as likely to take a bang to the mouth at training as they are to in a game, so mouthguards should be considered compulsory for all sessions. Get a good one In my experience, for a gumshield to be comfortable, easily worn and really effective, it needs to be the proper moulded ones that you get from a dentist. The dentist takes a mould to fit the individual wearer perfectly and offers far superior protection. The good ones should cost less than €100. The ones that you buy over the shelf in a sports shop and mould with hot water were a total disaster as far as I was concerned and were not fit for purpose. In fact I remember almost gagging when I tried one of those in an emergency when I had lost my good one.

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