Last week, West Coast Eagles midfielder Elliot Yeo collided with Collingwood Magpie Jarrod Witts, fracturing two of his front teeth. This injury again calls attention to the fact that Australian Football League doesn’t require mouthguards for its players.

The Cost of Tooth Injuries

This type of injury can be very expensive, although exactly how much it will cost remains up in the air. An initial estimate of $70,000 by a dentist reported on by the Herald Sun was almost certainly high, but that doesn’t mean the injury isn’t likely to be expensive. Yeo’s two teeth went flying, but they weren’t dislodged at the root, so they couldn’t be placed in milk and taken to the dentist for reimplantation or replaced with dental implants. Instead, they were fractured near the gumline. Yeo is expected to get crowns to replace his lost teeth, and he’s expected to ready to play this week.

Although Yeo may be willing to pay the cost for this type of injury when he elects not to wear a mouthguard, children who participate in these sports and their parents may not. One estimate of the cost of a lost tooth by a US youth sports organization is that a lost tooth will result in more than $20,000 in lifetime costs per tooth.

AFL Players Are Role Models

Whether they like to admit it or not, AFL players are role models, and kids are likely to emulate what their heroes do. They kind of acknowledged this when Magpies defender Nick Maxwell, encouraged young players to wear a mouthguard. He said, “It’s no fun (loosing teeth). I’ve watched Clinton Young for three weeks have soup for every meal after in the NAB Cup losing his front tooth.”

Australian rules football is the most common cause of sports related injuries for adults and children, accounting for about 20% of adult sports-related injuries and 12% of childhood sports-related injuries. It is a dangerous game, and to protect children and their teeth, mouthguards are usually required at the lower levels. To encourage kids to use mouthguards, they should also be required at the professional level as well.