Do you have to wear a mouthguard in the NFL?


One of the most overlooked parts of all athletics has to be safety.

Safety precautions are one of the most crucial parts of competing, whether it be the shin guards on MLS players or the elbow pads on NFL athletes. Measures to ensure security are integral to competitive athletes’ commitment to a sport.

All sports have safety protocols, and some sports have safety mandates like pads, shin guards and mouthpieces, but on the flip side, some sports don’t have obligatory measures, rather just suggestions. 

In the case of mouthguards, let’s take a look at how they play a role in the NFL, including whether they are required, why players wear them and why players do not:

Are NFL players required to wear a mouthguard?

Technically, NFL players are not required to wear mouthguards. Using a mouthpiece is highly recommended, but it is not a mandate athletes have to follow.

Why do NFL players not wear their mouthguards?

Many NFL players choose to leave the locker room without the security of a mouthguard, and there are many reasons for this. 

First of all, mouthguards are often large and uncomfortable in the athletes’ mouths, making it hard to talk and call plays. This can cause potential breakdowns in plays and a lot of miscommunication during games and practices.

Secondly, mouthguards make it hard for athletes to breathe right. It’s like having a bulk of unnecessary material in their mouths, ultimately blocking their airways and making situations requiring endurance much harder.

And third: Mouthguards affect an athlete’s ability to quench their thirst. Drinking is highly constrained by mouthguards. Because of this, many athletes remove their mouthpieces to drink from water bottles. Not only does this pose an inconvenience, but oftentimes, the players then forget to reinsert the protective piece into their jaw.

Why do NFL players wear mouthguards? 

Mouthguards are sort of like shock absorbers. When you get hit with a hard blow to the face, shock waves radiate throughout your teeth, jaw and skull, and a mouthguard is the mechanism that blocks those blows from being catastrophic.

Mouthguards are made to collect that high energy and disperse it so that athletes do not fall victim to knocked-out teeth and fractured jaws.

So, in simple terms, NFL players wear mouthguards for safety. This precaution is and has always been recommended in high-contact sports.

Why shouldn’t NFL players use Invisalign as a mouthpiece?

According to Richmond Virginia Orthodontics, “Invisalign is not designed to protect teeth during high impact sports like football.”

Mouthguards reduce the risk of knocked-out teeth, not Invisalign, which is made to straighten a person’s teeth. 

“If you play a sport yet want to straighten your teeth, know that you can’t utilize Invisalign as a mouthguard,” added RVO. “You’ll need to remove your aligners before every practice or game and put in a custom-fitted mouthguard.”

Do NFL QBs wear mouthguards? 

Obviously, the decision whether to wear a mouthguard depends on the player. However, many players with higher risk of contact and hard hits will usually opt for the mouth protection over those who see less contact like punters and kickers.

Quarterbacks are up in the air – sometimes they see a lot of contact through sacks, and other times they’re fiercely protected and come out clean. Mouthguards aren’t necessarily essential, but they are suggested.

Do other professional leagues require mouthguards?

Actually, the answer is also no. The NHL does not mandate mouthguards, nor does the NBA or MLB. Mouthguards are completely optional in these leagues.

Due to the high likelihood of contact in basketball, many players usually do wear mouthguards. Hockey players of all skills and ages also tend to use them for safety precautions.

When it comes to soccer, some protective gear is required by FIFA, but mouthguards are not one of them.

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