Does A Mouth Guard Prevent Concussions?
Concerns about concussions among athletes continue to capture the attention of doctors and other sporting officials. A global consensus report has been released that provides useful insight concerning concussions and its appropriate diagnosis and treatment. However, this report does not fully answer the perturbing question – Does a mouth guard prevent concussions?
Concussion refers to a certain form of brain injury that results from the trauma that is sustained to the head. Injuries that result from the concussion are so dangerous and could potentially end a sporting career. In order to prevent sport-related injuries, it is advisable to wear the proper sporting equipment. The biggest debate lies in whether a mouth guard is a capable form of sporting equipment to prevent concussion.
Mouth Guards play quite important roles for athletes especially in instances of aggressive contact sporting. The main use of a mouthguard involves protecting the teeth and preventing serious mouth injuries. They can also be used in the prevention of jaw injuries and limited studies have suggested that they can help reduce the risk of concussion.
Argument: why mouth guards do not prevent concussions
One of the commonly held myths in the sports medicine field is the premise that wearing a mouth guard can fully aid in the prevention of concussion.
On January 17, 2009, top neurological experts dismissed claims that mouth guards can aid in the prevention of concussion, pointing to evidence that there is no credible research to back this idea.
There has not been any adequate research that links mouth guards to absolute concussion prevention.
So, what’s the primary use of mouthguards?
Mouthguards are mainly used in preventing athletes from lip laceration and loss of teeth. The idea that custom mouth guards can reduce the risk of concussion has been strongly presented (see below) but it is important to note that no mouth guard is able to prevent concussions.
Argument: why wearing a mouth guard prevent concussions
Many have advocated that mouth guards can prevent some sport related concussions as it helps in absorbing shock, thus stabilizing the neck and the head and limiting the movement that is caused by a direct hit to the jaw.
According to the study published in the Clinical Journal of the General Dentistry in a 2014 issue, the study found that high school football players who wear the store-bought mouthguards were twice as susceptible to suffering mild traumatic injuries in comparison to those wearing properly fitted custom mouthguards.
Mouth guard materials have shock absorbing qualities. They are resilient and soft enough to absorb the impact energy and reduce the transmitted forces. Forces from the mandibular impact can be attenuated with a mouthguard, resulting in fewer injuries. Mouth protectors are believed to reduce pressure changes and the bone deformation within the skull in the cadaver model.
The ability of mouth guards to prevent head injuries and concussions falls into the realm of neuromythology rather than hard science. There is not enough convincing and proven evidence to support a full protective effect of the mouth guard in relation to the concussion. However, an absence of proof is not a direct proof of absence.
As it currently stands, mouth guards can possibly aid in the reduction of concussions (specifically custom made mouthguards) but cannot prevent concussion. Still, all athletes are equally susceptible to concussion and should wear the proper sports equipment to downgrade that risk as much as possible.