Fall sports playbook

Fall is an active season for sports. Football, volleyball, soccer – they are all going strong when the leaves begin to turn and the air feels crisp.  

Ready to play?

It’s great to get outside and get active, but it’s also important to stay safe. Let’s review the potential risks of a few fall sports, and what you can do to protect your oral and overall health.


10-20% of sports-related injuries occur in or around the mouth.1



It wouldn’t be fall without football! The most popular sport in America can be thrilling, teaches the power of teamwork, and, depending on your age, comes in two varieties — flag or tackle. Both versions of the game pose similar risks, but these injuries are much more frequent in tackle football.

Rough collisions and physical contact with other players or the ground can cause:

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    Cracked, broken, displaced, or lost teeth.

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    Accidental biting of the cheeks and tongue. 

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    Sprains, broken bones, damage to joints and ligaments.

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    Head or brain trauma and concussions.

To play football and protect yourself from chipped teeth and head trauma, you need the right gear. This includes a properly fitted helmet and a mouth guard to shield your teeth, gums, tongue, and cheeks.

While a mouth guard is recommended for all contact or collision sports, some do offer more protection than others. The Delta Dental Athletic Mouth Guard, for example, provides two times the impact absorption of traditional mouth guards.


If you’re looking for a sport with a slightly lower risk of mouth injuries, volleyball is a great choice. In this fast-paced game, potential injuries typically stem from getting hit by a fast-moving ball, colliding with other players, or falling to the ground. Risks of the sport include:

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    Mouth and head injuries.  

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    Damage to your fingers, ankles, and knees.

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    Fatiguing or tearing your rotator cuff.

Stay safe playing volleyball by wearing a mouth guard and being aware of the people around you to avoid accidental collisions. The right athletic shoes and a pair of knee pads will help protect your ankles and knees, while proper technique when setting and blocking can limit any damage to your fingers.

Think about your drink! It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re active, but many sports drinks are acidic (which can wear down tooth enamel) or loaded with sugar that can lead to cavities. Choose water for a healthy refreshment.


Soccer – or fútbol to the rest of the world – is another popular way to stay active, but it comes with a higher chance of injury than you might expect. This is due to physical collisions and also the way the game is played, with frequent starting and stopping that creates wear and tear on your legs. Risks from soccer include:

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    Oral health injuries similar to football.

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    Head and neck injuries.

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    Ankle and knee sprains or ligament tears.

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    Foot fractures.

Proper stretching and important safety gear, like a mouth guard and shin guards, can help reduce injury risk. Parents should be aware of U.S. Soccer Federation guidance for age-appropriate heading of the ball and players should always use proper form if they do so during games. 

If you’re competing or practicing outdoors, wear sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 30 or higher to shield yourself and avoid sunburn.

Stay safe out there

Competition can be fun, but good health is the sweetest victory of all. Take steps to protect your body and your smile during the fall sports season!

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