Monday, October 2, 2017

Ask The Adaptive Athlete: Face Masks and Basketball

By Kara Jackman

Last month on the CCA Kids Blog, we covered a story of boy who popped an incredible 3-point shot in the last few minutes of a basketball game. As the author of the Ask the Adaptive Athlete blog series, I felt a need to show, tell, and encourage all our budding basketball players to play one of the greatest games ever invented. If you have the will to be the next Lebron James, then there is a way for you to hit the court and be part of the action.

Basketball is a fast-paced, dynamic sport that requires very little equipment. The game does get pretty physical. Elbows are thrown, bodies running at high speed with 9 other guys around you fighting for the spherical ball things can get pretty crazy. No one wears pads, the bare minimum you see the average player wear for protection is a mouthguard. And as I learned last season, not all players wear those. Former Boston Celtic and current Cleveland Cavalier, Isaiah Thomas, took an elbow to the mouth in one of the final games of the 2016-2017 season. He was not wearing a mouthguard and subsequently lost a tooth during the game. Thomas was forced to have 9 hours of emergency dental surgery. Hours after the surgery he played in a game and scored over 50 points. After that weekend, he began wearing a mouthguard.

No mouthguard = missing teeth
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So how is it that you as a kid, or adult, affected by a craniofacial condition, a fragile face, and soft teeth, will be able to play basketball like a pro? Well, easily. You just need a mouthguard and a face mask.

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Many professional players wear face masks to keep their face in place. In fact, these masked men are so popular in the NBA that ESPN created a power ranking of players. Check it out here. (Oh, and here are lists compiled by USA Today and Sports Illustrated.)

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Pro ballers wear them all the time. My first introduction to these masks as a young NBA fan was through the Los Angeles Lakers' James Worthy, and Detroit Pistons, Bill Laimbeer. Both were very physical and successful players. Worthy and Laimbeer wore the masks every time they hit the court. Others, like Kobe Bryant and the aforementioned King himself, Lebron James, wore them for short stints after catching an elbow, a knee, or having surgery on their face.

Therefore, if anyone says anything about your mask, all you need to tell them is that Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, and King James wear one. Then drop a piping hot, "nothing but net" 2-pointer, and run down to the other side of the court with your eyes locked on the player that questioned you. Bam! Now, that feels good.

You are probably thinking, "I am pumped up. I am ready to play. I love watching basketball and now you are telling me I can play? Sweet!" Your next question is, "Where do you get one of those masks?" The easy answer is Amazon. But there is more to it than that. You need to know how much of your face you want to protect and how big and bulky you want to go.

Kobe Bryant
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James Worthy and Kobe Bryant wore a very small, simple piece of molded plastic like this one you can purchase at this website. While other players went for more protection, using something like this number from Amazon. This mask is larger, more noticeable, and probably protects much better. Ultimately, you must ask yourself these four questions to get the right mask for you:

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  • How much of my face do I need to protect? 
  • What areas of my face are most likely to come in contact with the ball and other players on the court? 
  • What areas of my face need support, stability, and/or the most protection? 
  • What is my doctor's opinion on wearing a mask? Could it harm or hurt the work they are doing to rebuild my facial features, head, or body? 

No matter what you decide, do make sure you discuss playing basketball with a face mask with your doctor. I am not a doctor, only an athlete and sport enthusiast that wants to open up new ways for you to get exercise, gain friends, and express yourself through sports.

Thanks for reading this installment of Ask the Adaptive Athlete. Please forward any questions you have about sports and leisure activities to me at kjackman98 [at] gmail [dot] com. Let us know if you tried any of the suggestions written about in this series for the blog. We love to see and share success stories.

Happy Sporting!

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