Even if you don’t watch soccer, you know Mia Hamm. She’s widely recognized as the world’s best women’s soccer player. At the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games she proved it by leading her team to gold in front of 80,000 screaming fans in Athens, Georgia. Never in history had so many spectators come out to watch a women's sporting event. Over the course of her professional career, she scored 158 international goals, more than any other player, male or female, in the history of soccer. (Um, hello!! Girl power!!)) Then In 2004, after leading her team to another gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, she retired at age 32. So awesome.
Now, she’s teaming up with the American Association of Orthodontists for the “Play it Safe” program. The program is designed to encourage young athletes to use mouth guards. According to the Centers for Disease Control, baseball, soccer, basketball and football account for about 80% of all sports-related emergency room visits for children between 5 and 14 years of age. She talked with us about the importance of playing it safe. You may have seen part of the the interview on 11 News at 9am for our Workout Wednesday segment. But here’s more with her:
Stacia: Why is this issue so important to you?
Mia: It’s important to me because I want kids to be out there and stay healthy and continue to play on the playing field… and for me, teaming up with the American Association of Orthodontists to encourage kids to play it safe, to wear their mouth guard... You know, not just when they play games, but when they’re practicing and most people associate mouth guards with football, but for all sports with contact… basketball, baseball, soccer, lacrosse. Even I think skiing, snowboarding or skate boarding.
Stacia: Definitely applicable here in Colorado! But Mia, you’ve been a student athlete. Why don’t kids want to wear these things?
Mia: When I was younger, they were bug and bulky. But now they’re so streamlined. You can breathe easier. But whether it’s… you know… they think it’s not cool… But if you watch TV, you watch professional sports. I mean the NBA playoffs are going on right now. You’ve got the Nuggets! And guys are wearing them. So I think they’re getting a great example for kids. I think a lot of them look really cool.
Stacia: What can parents do to get this message across to kids?
Mia: Setting a good example… Sitting down to talk to your orthodontist or your dentist. You know, just staying on the field. I think the last thing we want to see are kids sitting on the sidelines due to preventable injuries to their mouth and face. For me, what we can do is – we can send them to the website (www.braces.org
) , sit down with your kids and you can download a free consultation coupon. You can find your local orthodontist who’s participating. You can get kind of a cool poster of me. But tips as well about keeping your kid safe.
Stacia: On a personal note, since you retired in 2004, what are you doing these days to keep yourself fit?
Mia: For me, it’s always been a consistent part of my life. And since I’ve had kids, I want to set a great example for them, continue to eat well and just make it a part of everyday life. It’s not easy with juggling kids and family life. But I know the kind of energy and how I know it keeps my body healthy and active.