Tackling Kids' Sport Safety With Football Great Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith, the American Association of Orthodontists and the National Alliance of Youth Sports team up to help raise awareness and increase the use of facial protection in youth sports

Jan 26, 2010, 08:30 ET from American Association of Orthodontists

ST. LOUIS, Jan. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), children are putting themselves at risk on the playing field while coaches and parents stand by on sidelines. In a recent survey, the AAO discovered that 70 percent of parents said their biggest fear is that their child will get hurt while playing organized sports, yet 67 percent admitted that their child does NOT wear a mouth guard during organized sports including football, basketball, soccer and lacrosse. To get the message out that simple and inexpensive protective sports gear – such as mouth guards – can make a big difference in reducing or preventing sports injuries, the AAO has turned to the pros. In February, the AAO will launch a Sport Safety Education Campaign at football's biggest game with football great, father and sport-safety advocate, Emmitt Smith.

Tackling Kids' Sports Safety with Emmitt Smith and the AAO

The damage caused by a ball, puck or elbow to the face can be devastating for a child – often resulting in serious injury and a lifetime of oral health issues. In fact, sports-related injuries are the leading cause of emergency room visits in 12- to 17-year-olds according to the Centers for Disease Control. By teaming up with Emmitt Smith and the National Alliance of Youth Sports (NAYS) to promote facial protection and sport safety, the AAO hopes that "Play It Safe" will become a mantra for youth sports.  

"Unfortunately, many parents, kids and coaches don't realize the damage a ball or on-field collision can do until it's too late," said Robert J. Bray, DDS, MS, president, American Association of Orthodontists.  "As experts in helping patients achieve a healthy, beautiful smile, the last thing my colleagues and I want to see is a smile ruined by a preventable injury."  

To kick off the AAO Sport Safety Campaign, Smith will highlight the importance of kids' sport safety in February in Miami, during one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Emmitt will visit Carol Middle School, a local Miami school, to meet with students, discuss the importance of facial protection and distribute mouth guards.

"As an athlete and father, this campaign is close to my heart. I know how important it is to be safe on the playing field," said Smith. "You can't play if you're injured, and not wearing facial protection dramatically increases your chances of sustaining injuries."

Additionally, Emmitt is starring in a new sport-safety themed poster and website for the AAO designed to educate parents about the importance of sport safety and facial protection. Parents, kids and coaches can visit the American Association of Orthodontists' website at www.braces.org for sport safety tips and more information about the Sport Safety Campaign, and to download a poster of the football great.

More about Mouth Guards and Sport Safety Tips

Mouth guards are one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available. Over-the-counter versions may cost as little as five dollars, although custom-fit mouth guards offer greater protection. Not only do mouth guards save teeth, they may protect jaws. An orthodontist can recommend the best mouth guard for an athlete who wears braces.

Consistent use of other protective equipment is important, too. Mandated for many organized sports, helmets save lives and prevent head injuries. Face guards, devices made of plastic or metal that attach to baseball helmets, also help to prevent facial injuries. To help parents and coaches, the AAO has four quick tips for keeping kids safe during sport activities. Kids and athletes can "Play It Safe" by remembering to:

  1. Wear mouth guards during contact sports.
  2. Wear a helmet.
  3. Wear protective eyewear.
  4. Wear a face shield to avoid scratched or bruised skin.

Also, keep in mind the following:

  • Stretch before and after a game or practice.
  • Be observant even as a spectator.  
  • Use good judgment.  

"Children participating in contact sports should wear the proper protective gear," said Dr. Bray. "Although we recommend mouth guards for all young athletes, they really are a must for orthodontic patients."  

Additional information about the AAO Sport Safety Campaign and sport safety tips can be found on the American Association of Orthodontists website at www.braces.org. To locate an orthodontist near you, visit "Find an Orthodontist" at www.braces.org, or ask your dentist for a referral.

About the American Association of Orthodontists

The AAO comprises 16,000 members in the United States, Canada and abroad. Founded in 1900, the AAO supports research and education leading to quality patient care and promotes increased public awareness of the need for and benefits of orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are uniquely qualified to correct improperly aligned teeth and jaws. They are specialists in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

Orthodontists receive an additional two to three years of specialized education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten teeth. Only those with this education may call themselves "orthodontists," and only orthodontists may be members of the AAO.

About the National Alliance for Youth Sports

The National Alliance for Youth Sports has been America's leading advocate for positive and safe sports for children since 1981. It serves volunteer coaches, parents with children involved in organized sports, game officials, youth sports administrators, league directors and the youngsters who participate in organized sports. The Alliance's programs are utilized in more than 3,000 communities nationwide by parks and recreation departments, Boys & Girls Clubs, Police Athletic Leagues, YMCAs/YWCAs and various independent youth service groups, as well as on military installations worldwide. For more information visit www.nays.org.

Agatha Thaller, 314-552-6785


Pam Paladin, 314-993-1700, ext. 524


SOURCE American Association of Orthodontists