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Effectiveness of mouthguards in reducing neurocognitive deficits following sports-related cerebral concussion

Dent Traumatol. 2007 Oct;

23(1):14-20.

Mihalik, J. P., M. A. McCaffrey, E. M. Rivera, J. E. Pardini, K. M. Guskiewicz, M. W. Collins and M. R. Lovell.

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Abstract:

Although it is widely accepted that mouthguards decrease the incidence of dental injuries, there is a controversy among sports medicine professionals as to the effectiveness of mouthguards in decreasing the incidence or severity of sports-related cerebral concussion (SRCC). While some experimental data suggest that this may be the case, there exist a number of reports suggesting that mouthguards do not serve this purpose. These conclusions have been drawn, however, without actually measuring the extent of neurocognitive dysfunction in athletes following sports-related concussion. The purpose of this study was to determine whether mouthguard use reduces the neurocognitive and symptomatic impairments that follow an injurious episode of SRCC. Preseason baseline data were collected as part of an ongoing clinical program that uses a computerized neurocognitive test to assess various faculties of brain function and symptoms reported at the time of testing. Follow-up testing from 180 student-athletes who had sustained an SRCC was analyzed for the purpose of this study. These athletes were separated into one of two groups: those who reported using mouthguards and those who did not. Neurocognitive testing was accomplished using the Immediate Post-Concussion and Assessment Test (ImPACT). Results suggest that neurocognitive deficits at the time of the athletes’ first follow-up assessment did not differ between mouthguard users and non-users, suggesting that mouthguard use does little to reduce the severity of neurocognitive dysfunction and onset of symptoms following sports-related head trauma. However, an interesting finding in this study was that athletes experienced significantly lower neurocognitive test scores and reported higher symptom scores following SRCC regardless of mouthguard use. This emphasizes a thorough clinical evaluation of athletes that have sustained an SRCC. Although it was found in this study that mouthguard use does not decrease the severity of concussion, it is important to note that the use of mouthguards is paramount in reducing maxillofacial and dental trauma and their use should continue to be mandated by athletic associations and supported by all dental and sports medicine professionals.

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