Wear your mouthguard.
Wear your mouthguard.
It’s very rare that you hear about severe mouth injuries in roller derby. The Incredible Hulse rocks a missing tooth and we’ve all had a split lip from a high-block, but on the whole we’re more concerned with our spindly ankles and knees, so prone to snapping and popping and taking us off skates for up to six months.
No-one looks cool in a mouthguard. The white ones have always sold out, they taste awful if you forget to wash them (which is every time), and even the nice slick Pro-Tech ones make you sound like Forrest Gump. However, as I learned recently, your mouthguard can be the only thing standing between your flawless face and having opposing teams run away from you screaming.
It was a Sunday training session. I was jamming. The ruthless Vikispeedia had been positionally blocking me for what felt like months and suddenly out of nowhere, my pivot Gin Atomic heroically swept in for offence. Vikispeedia went down (hooray!) as did Gin Atomic (oh no!) and as she fell, I tripped over her and landed face first on the track. My chin crunched into the floor and my teeth sank into the truck on the back of Gin’s left Antik.
I quickly realised that my mouth was bleeding and proceeded to scream obscenities that would have made Tank Girl blush. Whilst Gin and Do or Dyduch were gently poking my face and checking I was alive, Herbie Li Cious, our coach, came over.
“Were your teeth always like that?” he asked, the absolute bastard. He was joking, but I freaked out, blood and tears and sweat dribbling down my gorgeous face.
“What? Are my teeth gone? Where are my teeth? Have I got all my teeth?”
I carried on skating, but felt weirder and weirder as we went on. My teeth kept bumping into each other and I developed a high tinnitus-like ringing in one of my ears. My chin also swelled up to the point where I looked like a tiny John Travolta.
By the time I got home I was in absolute agony. My cracked tooth was too sensitive for me to eat or drink anything, I couldn’t open or close my mouth without a loud click and a stab of pain, and the headache in my temples was almost unbearable. Unable to shake the image of the Elephant Man from my mind, I necked some co-codamol, got into bed listening to Barber’s Adagio for Strings and decided to get it checked out in the morning.
The next day I took my massive face to my GP. My jaw had seized up and I couldn’t grit my teeth. He asked what the hell I’d done to my face and I explained it was a ‘rerler gerby’ injury; he didn’t look impressed, and sent me straight to A&E with a suspected jaw fracture where I was to hunt down the maxillofacial surgeons and demand an x-ray.
Here’s what I discovered about my fall.
I had sprained my temporomandibular joint. That’s pretty much the thing that keeps your jaw on your face. I had sprained my face.
Sprained. My face.
The swelling from said sprain was so big that it had pushed my jaw to one side and misaligned my bite.
I was not allowed to yawn or eat crunchy food for two weeks. (try not yawning now. Just try it).
The impact to my chin meant that I’d suffered a mild concussion and had a bruise the size of Belgium.
I was also told that if I hadn’t been wearing my mouthguard, I would have smashed all my teeth and would look and sound like Shane MacGowan, and I would never again have sex in my life, ever.
Five really good reasons to wear a mouthguard, right there. A well-fitting mouthguard doesn’t just protect your teeth – it protects your neck, your spine, your jaw, your skull. I was wearing mine when I fell and was told I was lucky.
Mouthguards tend to be the last thing you buy when you’re starting out roller derby, despite the fact that they – along with your helmet – protect the most delicate part of your body. Your mouthguard is a shock-absorber, lessening the impact of a blow to the face which could well knock you – or at least your teeth - out. I found out that some of our recent fresh meat intake were whinging about having to wear them a few weeks into the course. Considering the fact that most injuries happen during training - for the love of god, kids. Wear your damn mouthguards. Or you could end up like this.