It's a danger on the football field that has nothing to do with how hard a player is hit. Mouthguards must be worn at all times during the game to keep your child safe, but dangers could be creeping into an athlete's mouth without them even knowing it.
Some athletes are storing them in their gym bag, rinsing them off, putting them in their mouths, biting on them, sometimes even sharing them, so if keeping them clean isn't part of an athlete's routine, it should be because it can carry risks they can't even see.
"It's part of the rules but it's also for their safety," said Nathan Richter LSA head football coach.
Come game time, if players don't have their mouthguard in, it's a five yard penalty.
"Mouthguards are there to protect your teeth, your lips and your gums," explained Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Scott Bilyeu.
But another mistake could cost a player more than yards.
"They're still teenage boys so if it falls in the dirt I know they're just going to throw it right back in," Coach Richter said.
So it's important to keep it clean.
"I try to rinse it off as much as I can because obviously it does get a lot of dirt on it," said LSA Senior Captain Colton Bayless.
Microscopic holes in the mouthguard can collect dirt, bacteria, and even viruses.
"Your mouthguard acts as a wonderful petri dish for the breeding of these pathogens," Dr. Bilyeu explained.
Those pathogens can cause gum, skin infections and tooth decay, so Dr. Bilyeu recommended cleaning it regularly with a toothbrush or peroxide, have a replacement on hand just in case and keep it in a clean container.
"Don't store them in your gym bag by just throwing them in your gym bag because that's gross," he said.
So before they get gross, get them clean.
Dr. Bilyeu added that a new study shows a correlation between a dirty mouth guard and the development of asthma. As a player is running down the field and breathing hard, they're breathing pathogens back into the lungs causing inflammation of the airways. But he reiterated the benefit of wearing a mouthguard outweighs the risks.
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