Few events in recent times have captured the attention of Australians like the women’s World Cup soccer (‘football’ for the purists).
On the one hand, we were collectively thrilled that the Matildas went as far into the tournament as they did. On the other hand, we were collectively disappointed when they were ultimately knocked out in the play-off for third place.
However, there was something during the tournament that caught my eye and provides a real opportunity for dentists nationally.
One of the Matildas was interviewed ahead of the semi-final, where she mentioned her experience as a child sitting in the stands of a women’s World Cup game many years before.
She commented that there had only a few hundred people watching that game. This time around, however, there were approximately 80,000 people watching the game.
She speculated that in future years, we could expect to see a significant increase in the uptake of soccer among young Australians, particularly girls. And based on her own experience, and the inspiration she got from seeing as a child the elite athletes perform, she makes a sound argument.
So, what’s the dentist’s angle here?
For a ‘non-contact’ sport, it’s fair to say soccer is not exactly non-contact! There were many challenges that I saw during the tournament where various bits of the player’s bodies banged into each other.
What really surprised me was the complete lack of players wearing mouthguards. This is despite the fact that I saw several players getting kicked in the face (accidentally), and others having head clashes while both attempting to head a ball.
In my mind, this tournament creates a great opportunity for Australian dentists to get the message out about the importance of mouthguards for the next generation.
Obviously, we want to protect kids’ teeth, but more importantly, establish a lasting change for future generations. And that means educating the kids now who, like the Matilda interviewed the game, were inspired to want to play for their country.
Next time Australia hosts a World Cup series (in another 30 years?), wouldn’t it be great to see all of the players wearing mouthguards as a testament to the impact that dentists can make?