Playing sports is a wonderful way to stay in shape, meet new friends, and develop new skills! Unfortunately, some athletic activities also pose certain risks. Your TMJs, or temporomandibular joints, act as hinges at either side of your mouth. If they become damaged in any way (stretched, torn, pulled, misaligned, degraded, etc.) during sports, you may develop TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorder. Many people suffer from this chronic condition without realizing it, but TMD can cause prolonged headaches, earaches, back pain, and other uncomfortable symptoms. It can make it difficult to eat, speak, or even move your jaw.
At our Houston practice, Dr. Ronald C. Auvenshine, Dr. Nathan Pettit, and our team have devoted ourselves to helping patients manage their TMD and lead healthy, happy lives. In the following blog, we discuss the link between sports and TMD. Armed with this knowledge, you can exercise with caution and preserve your TMJs!
How Sports Can Cause or Exacerbate TMD
While fun and rewarding, sports can be rough on your body. Your face is one of your most vulnerable areas. You could get hit in the face by a ball or another player, fall down on the court, or overextend your muscles in an effort to make a goal. Often, your jaw muscles, tendons, and ligaments end up absorbing the force of facial impact. This pressure can damage your TMJs, possibly leaving you with TMD symptoms for years to come. Some of the riskiest sports for your TMJs include:
· Football. ABC News recently reported that football head injuries are on the rise “because of bigger, faster players.”
· Hockey. A 2012 Hockey Now article commented: “the TMJ is a very interesting and overlooked injury site in hockey. Many TMJ injuries are directly the result of blunt force trauma, overuse, or clenching…Because the TMJ is a hinge joint that is very mobile, it acts like a free moving body such that the head will move first, then the jaw will move by itself.”
· Martial arts and boxing, since opponents actively work to knock your face.
· Basketball, because heavy balls can come flying at your jaw.
· Soccer, during which you could skid across the grass or get hit in the face with a dense soccer ball.
· Volleyball, since you must use your hands and sometimes even your head to throw and catch firm balls. Other players may also push or crash into you during this process.
Protecting Yourself Against TMJ Trauma
Shielding your head can safeguard your smile and prevent TMJ injuries. A sports mouth guard or helmet could absorb the pressure from an injury to stop it from disrupting your TMJ function. In addition, you can lower your overall chances of developing TMD by avoiding chewing gum and reducing your stress (anxiety has been linked to damaging tooth grinding). Athletes should also be conscientious about their TMJs—if you notice anything unusual about your jaw, don’t hesitate to come see us for a consultation!
We Can Help
If you’ve suffered a sports-related oral trauma or are experiencing TMD symptoms, Dr. Auvenshine, Dr. Pettit, and our team can assist you. When you come in for a consultation, we’ll assess your jaw health and use our advanced diagnostic technology to determine if you suffer from TMD. If you do, we will discuss how to best help you manage your symptoms.
Don’t Play With Your TMJs
You can maintain both your athletic career and your TMJs with proper care and treatment. Contact MedCenter TMJ today to find out more about sports-related TMJ injuries or schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.