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Concussions - Does Wearing a Mouthguard Prevent Concussions?

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Updated May 21, 2014

Concussions - Does Wearing a Mouthguard Prevent Concussions?

Calgary Flame Jamie Lundmark

Photo: © Shawn Watson
Question: Concussions - Does Wearing a Mouthguard Prevent Concussions?
A concussion is classified as a brain injury that results from trauma sustained to the head. The reality is clear for participants of contact sports; injuries that result in a concussion could potentially end their sporting career. Preventing sports-related injuries is achieved when the proper equipment is used during play. So, does wearing a mouthguard prevent concussions?
Answer:

The number of sports-related concussion sustained every year is distressing. The University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery states that in the United States alone 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually, and the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19% per year of play.

Wearing a mouthguard while participating in contact sports was once thought to prevent the occurrence of sustaining a concussion. On January 17, 2009, statements made by top neurological experts dismissed this, claiming that no credible research backs this idea, further confusing parents and players on the validity of mouthguard wear. As with most topics of debate related to medical research, Dr. Bill Blair, a dentist and the current president of the NHL Team Dentists Association, puts the issue into perspective stating that, “We are just learning an awful lot about concussion right now. In fact the NHL, I would say, is at the pinnacle of the knowledge that has been gained through concussion research. They have done a great deal of research over the last 10 years; they have a great deal of information.”

Warren Peters, a center for the Calgary Flames, suffered an injury to his mouth during a fight on the ice. Not wearing a mouthguard at the time of his injury, Peters admits he still forgets to wear his mouthguard, even though he realizes it may have prevented the loss of his teeth. When questioned about the importance of keeping his natural teeth, he expressed mixed feelings on the issue, stating, "Fortunately I am a guy that hasn't had concussion problems and maybe that is something I would need towards wearing one, and not so much loosing a tooth." Jamie Lundmark, also a center for the Calgary Flames, wears a mouthguard for every game he plays. Like most players, his impression of a mouthguards protection is based on concussion prevention. He says, "I think it helps concussion injuries, biting down on [a mouthguard] takes pressure off the jaw and the shock to the brain."

Though there may not be adequate research linking mouthguards to concussion prevention, Dr. Blair reiterated the consensus of most players in the NHL; "It is easier for us to sell the wearing of mouthguards to a professional hockey player based on concussion prevention, than of tooth injury."

Sources:

A.D.A.M. "Definition of Concussion"

CBC.ca. Concussions and the mouthguard myth. January 22, 2009.

Shawn Watson Interview with Dr. Bill Blair. March 23, 2009.

Shawn Watson Interview with Jamie Lundmark. March 31, 2009.

Shawn Watson Interview with Warren Peters. March 31, 2009.

University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery. "Sports-Related Concussions: Background and Significance"

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