Mouthguards and Concussions: Separating Fact from Fiction
Concussions are a serious concern for athletes in contact sports, and mouthguards are often touted as a way to prevent them. However, there is a lot of misinformation out there about the effectiveness of mouthguards in preventing concussions. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what is true about mouthguards and concussions.
The Basics of Concussions
Before we dive into the specifics of mouthguards, it’s important to understand what a concussion is. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain is jolted or shaken inside the skull. Symptoms can include headache, dizziness, confusion, and sensitivity to light and sound. Concussions can range from mild to severe and can have long-term effects on cognitive function.
The Role of Mouthguards in Sports
Mouthguards are designed to protect the teeth and gums from injury during sports. They are typically made of a soft, pliable material that can absorb impact. Mouthguards can also help prevent jaw fractures and lacerations to the lips and tongue. While they are not specifically designed to prevent concussions, some people believe that they can help.
The Evidence on Mouthguards and Concussions
There have been several studies on the effectiveness of mouthguards in preventing concussions. While some studies have found a correlation between mouthguard use and a reduced risk of concussion, others have found no significant difference. It’s important to note that mouthguards are not a substitute for other forms of protective equipment, such as helmets and shoulder pads.
The Importance of Proper Fit
One factor that can affect the effectiveness of a mouthguard is how well it fits. A poorly fitting mouthguard can actually increase the risk of concussion by providing a false sense of security. It’s important to choose a mouthguard that is the right size and shape for your mouth, and to have it fitted by a dental professional.
Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Mouthguards
Custom mouthguards are made from a mold of your teeth and offer a more precise fit than off-the-shelf mouthguards. While they can be more expensive, they may provide better protection. However, even an off-the-shelf mouthguard that fits well is better than no mouthguard at all.
Other Ways to Prevent Concussions
Mouthguards are just one tool in the fight against concussions. Other strategies include proper tackling technique, strengthening neck muscles, and avoiding head-to-head contact. It’s also important to recognize the signs of a concussion and to seek medical attention if you suspect you or someone else has one.
The Bottom Line
Mouthguards can be an effective way to prevent dental injuries during sports, but their role in preventing concussions is less clear. While some studies suggest that they may help, they are not a substitute for other forms of protective equipment and should be used in conjunction with other strategies for preventing concussions.
Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself from concussions is to be aware of the risks and take steps to minimize them. Whether that means wearing a mouthguard, strengthening your neck muscles, or practicing proper tackling technique, every little bit helps.