Saving Teeth


Maybe it was the advent of TV, but football players in the 1950's finally found a way to keep their pretty faces unmarked-relatively, anyway. A facemask that wouldn't break or shatter and provided reasonable protection for a player's nose and teeth was developed during the decade and quickly adopted by most players. Facemasks of many sorts had appeared in the early days of pro football, mostly crude contraptions of dubious value. In the early 1950's a wide, clear Lucite model was popular until it began shattering. Finally, the tubular bar was invented in 1955 and popularized by Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham. It wasn't long before the single bar doubled, tripled, and blossomed in to the full-fledged "bird cage" worn by modern Players. Dentists across the country were forever grateful. You now could tell the difference between hockey players and football players. The latter still had most of their teeth, thanks to the facemask. The facemask changed the game. Fortified with the knowledge that his nose would stay in place, a defender could rely on his helmet while making a tackle. And that helmet was almost always plastic as the old leather variety faded into the history books.