Ice hockey: be smart, play smart, protect smart

Ice hockey: be smart, play smart, protect smart

It's the talk of the town– ice hockey striker Nino Niederreiter is promoting Zurich with his blue smile. But there's more to his smile than just car insurance: A mouthguard can prove indispensable for ice hockey players.

The national ice hockey team has once again raised the bar for this season: The team members will be heading out onto the pitch sporting brand new blue mouthguards. However, this joint campaign by Zurich and Swiss Ice Hockey is more than a vain attempt to preserve the players' pearly whites. This ice-blue publicity stunt is intended to illustrate the importance of proper protection for ice hockey players. No matter whether you are a professional or a beginner, whether during training or an international game, a mouthguard is just as much part of ice hockey as shinguards are in soccer, kneeguards in volleyball or helmets in skiing.

Blue protection for white teeth

It quite common for ice hockey players who don't wear a mouthguard to lose one or two teeth in the course of their sporting career. Because even a relatively minor blow to the mouth can lead to a chipped tooth.

A mouthguard protects more than just the teeth.

A good mouthguard can reduce the risk of tooth damage by up to 60 percent. That is why, Dr. Jean-Claude Küttel, team doctor of the Swiss national ice hockey team, recommends a mouthguard for all players aged eight or more.

Mouthguards can lessen the effects of a concussion

Ice hockey players really get their teeth into the game: it's one of the fastest and most physical sports in the world. Even if they usually play fairly and respectfully, violent clashes between players are nothing unusual. For example nation team defenceman Dominik Schlumpf often uses his entire body to block a puck. This is all part of the game.

A well played puck can reach speeds of up 160 kilometers per hour.

A well played puck can reach speeds of up 160 kilometers per hour. Were it to hit your lower jaw, without protection it would smash your teeth. "This is why oral protection is so important. It cushions the impact on the teeth by distributing the energy through the jaw," explains Küttel, adding "The more efficiently the energy caused by impacts or abrupt movements of the head is absorbed, the less the brain moves. This makes it possible to reduce the risk of concussion." However, at the same time Küttel clearly points out that while a mouthguard can lessen the impact of a concussion, it cannot, however, prevent one.

Made-to-measure mouthguards

In most cases, a concussion will heal without any lasting effects given the right treatment. Nevertheless, a concussion is a serious injury: This is a recognized fact and many preventive measures are taken: For example, junior hockey players must wear full-face protection until the age of 18, and a mouthguard is mandatory for 18 to 20-year-olds. Furthermore, Swiss Ice Hockey's efforts to convince and raise awareness among its players are starting to bear fruit, as many players wear mouthguards of their own accord, without being required to do so. This is something Dr. Jean-Claude Küttel has observed: "Most of the national team's players use a mouthguard." The two national team players Dominik Schlumpf and Lino Martschini have even allowed themselves to be filmed while being fitted with a blue Zurich mouthguard at the dentist.

Does my child need a made-to-measure mouthguard?

Adults usually wear a custom-made model, while a standard model is quite sufficient for adolescents. However, the Swiss national ice hockey team's doctor, Dr. Jean-Claude Küttel, also recommends a made-to-measure model for children and adolescents, which should be checked each year to account for the child's growth. By the way: Mouthguards are also available for people who wear a brace. These can be made by your dentist.