Why do NBA players wear mouthguards?


Picture this: You are sitting in the Chase Center stands at a Golden State Warriors game and Steph Curry’s mouthguard is slowly inching towards your face. 

Gross or exciting? It’s hard to say considering Curry is one of the greatest NBA players to have ever stepped foot on the court. Whatever the case, the NBA doesn’t consider things like this sportsmanlike, which is why Curry was ejected from Wednesday night’s 122-120 Warriors win over the Memphis Grizzlies. 

After last night’s funny fiasco, a question surfaced: Why does Curry, or better yet, any NBA player, wear a mouthguard? Here’s the reason behind the facial safety net:

Why do NBA players wear mouthguards?

It’s sort of like asking why bikers wear helmets or football players wear pads. Well, to protect themselves – specifically their teeth when it comes to mouthguards – when on the court. 

Basketball is a contact sport of high intensity and extreme physicality, and protective gear like facemasks and mouthguards are a buffer often used to avoid serious injury. Mouthguards protect the teeth and jawbone by acting as a crash helmet for intentional or accidental injuries that could occur during a game.

Are mouthguards required to be worn during NBA games?

When it comes to league policy, there is currently no mandate that requires NBA players to wear mouthguards during games. It is based on preference.

When did players start wearing mouthguards?

Mouthguards were first introduced to the sports scene in 1890 when Woolf Krause, a dentist from London, created the “gum shield.” The invention was intended for boxers, but as more sports popularized and evolved, the use of mouthguards grew. Soon football and basketball players began to wear mouthguards.

In the 1950s, the American Dental Association (ADA) began to research the benefits of wearing mouth protection during contact sports, uncovering that dental injuries by athletes dropped significantly if they used a mouthguard. 

As a result, the ADA began to suggest that athletes (in non-contact and contact sports) wear mouthguards while competing in the following 26 sports: acrobatics, basketball, bicycling, boxing, equestrian, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, inline skating, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, rugby, shot put, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, softball, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting and wrestling.

The first basketball player to strut the protective mouth gear was Dick Perry, a player on the UCLA Bruins from the 1940s. 

During David Stern’s tenure as NBA commissioner, mouthguard use in the league skyrocketed after Stern concluded that the number of elbows thrown during games was uncanny.

Which NBA players wear mouthguards?

We know Curry wears a mouthguard, but who else? Here are some other notable NBA players who wear the protective gear:

  • LeBron James
  • Blake Griffin
  • Rajon Rondo

How much does Steph Curry’s mouthpiece cost?

Though we don’t know the exact price Curry spent on the mouthpiece, we do know that wearing the item has cost Curry thousands of dollars – in fees. 

Yes, fees. Curry was charged $25,000 and $50,000 in fines for throwing his mouthguards two separate times at games. And on Wednesday, the 34-year-old was ejected from Chase Center for the same behavior. 

Why does Steph Curry chew on his mouthpiece?

Curry is known for his style of chewing on his mouthguard and letting it hang out of the side of his mouth. He claims that chewing on the guard puts him at peace and keeps him calm in the midst of intensity on the court, especially when he is at the free throw line.

The Golden State star began strutting a mouthpiece when he endured a mouth injury during his stint at Davidson College. Ever since, he has continued to sport a mouthpiece.

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