I thought I’d been doing a great job staying up on some of the more technical things going on related to the NFL…helmet design, affects of concussions and that sort of thing. But yesterday @and1grad and @Milkipedia mentioned the subject of mouth guards and how some say it could prevent a player from getting a concussion.
I did some research, and this discussion has been taking place since 2006 with blogs and even ESPN covering the fact that the NFL has resisted investing any money into the research to see how effective the use of a specific type of mouthguard would be in concussion prevention.
That’s not surprising.
But what is surprising is that the mouth guards recommended by Tufts Dental School (the source of the research), only cost $400 (well at least at the time of the Bleacher article in 2007).
At $395, the guard fits on the back molars and is comprised of an acrylic mold held together by three stainless steel bands, which rest behind the teeth.
“The biggest thing is it is extremely doctor-patient sensitive,” Maher said. “You have to diagnose correctly and put the jaw in the right position.”
During his 20-plus years promoting the mouthpiece, Maher said he has worked with 200-300 Patriots players and nearly 1,000 people overall, with positive results.
Still, both he and Mehta are quick to stress that the mouth guard could only lessen concussions endured from blows to the jaw—not for hits directly to the helmet or neck.
Here’s my thinking, regardless of whether the research is totally proven, if this kind of mouthpiece can’t hurt, I say buy one if it possible. I’d buy one for my brother/cousin/uncle etc. if he were playing in the NFL. I figure it can’t hurt–even if it only helps insofar as the blow is to the jaw. As far as I know the NFL doesn’t require mouth pieces nor do they require a specific kind. Definitely correct me if I’m wrong.
With the rate of former players experiencing neurological and psychological problems ranging from very early dementia to depression, this is something I’d like to know more about.
I guess the biggest issue here might be how informed the players are about stuff like this. I think most players like to bury their heads in the sand on many topics related to their health. But if something that is about the price of a bottle of champagne could possibly maybe might in some way help me, I’d get into it.
It’s kind of nice to see players getting to know their bodies better and getting open to new things. I loved this acupuncture article! The acupuncturist is working with 40 NFL players and it’s quite an interesting story. And lots of players from Darren Sharper to Kerry Rhodes sleep in hyperbaric chambers (which I personally find to be horrifying), so the interest in all forms of prevention and recovery is there.
From the acupuncture article this was hilarious:
Steelers linebacker James Harrison takes more than 300 needles, and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora begs for fewer than 40. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis hates needles and grips the table as if under attack.
HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH Does it surprise anyone that Harrison is tough?
On a side note, I thought these bits of info were interesting from the ESPN article on mouthguards:
Maher has been working on mouthpieces since the late 1970s, when he first started to talk with local legend (and patient) Marvin Hagler about why some boxers can take a punch while others have glass jaws. In adapting mouthguards for football players over the years, Maher has developed a protective device that looks and feels like a retainer. Two small pieces of acrylic, joined by stainless steel bands, fit securely onto to the lower molars. That leaves more room to talk and breathe than traditional “bite-and-boil” upper mouthpieces.
Maher is not the first person to suggest that mouthguards can prevent head injuries in football. In 1963, a team of dentists outfitted Notre Dame with custom-made pieces and reported a dramatic decrease in concussions. Today, the NCAA mandates mouthguards for all its football players. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend them for high school players, too, in part because they “may reduce the severity and incidence of concussions.” Last season, more than 2,000 football players in the Philadelphia school system wore “Brain-Pads,” mouthpieces that are not custom-fitted but are designed to be clenched between the upper and lower teeth.