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JUNEAU (AP) — Players at an annual city league-style basketball tournament in Alaska's capital city had a chance to get something new this year: special mouth guards.
Drs. Rochell Burke and Jordan White put together a program that supplied free mouth guards to any players in this year's Gold Medal basketball tournament who wanted them.
Burke and White are second-year residents at the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium and as part of their residencies were required to do a service project, the Juneau Empire reported . After hearing about the tournament, which brings together city league and other teams from outlying communities and villages, they wanted to get involved.
Barbara Jean Johnson, who plays for Yakutat, said her daughter told her about the program.
"One of the players from Yakutat kind of got his teeth busted in game one, and my kid doesn't want me to get my teeth busted out," said Johnson, who made a mid-tournament decision to get a mouth guard.
Burke said many athletes don't think much about their teeth until something bad happens.
"Any sort of trauma can really concuss the teeth in a way that makes the nerve kind of die in a way," she said. "With that added protection, you're hopefully taking away that risk. Unfortunately, the idea is that people don't need it until it happens to them, so we're trying to convince people, 'This is a big thing. Don't lose teeth that you don't need to lose.'"
Burke and White have devised a survey for players to fill out so they can determine how many oral and facial injuries occur during the tournament. They plan to use the information in advertising the program next year.
Burke said the player from Yakutat who broke his front teeth at the start of the tournament ended up signing up for a mouth guard.
"He unfortunately learned the hard way, and I think that's how most people do because in sports, you don't think it's going to happen to you until it does," Burke said. "We want to get the message out that we don't want you to wait until then."