Mouthguards Key to Avoiding Becoming a Drooling Wreck

↵Cassel EaglesThe incidence of concussions is of ever-mounting concern to the NFL brass, what with legislators discussing and researchers studying the long-term adverse effects of strapping on a helmet and getting your brains violently scrambled. ↵

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↵Any safety device that doesn't detract from the expected speed and savagery of the game is therefore of great interest. And while a recent advance in mouthguards, developed by Patriots team dentist Gerald Maher, can't promise to eliminate concussions altogether, it can protect against one of the three types of hits that commonly cause concussions. ↵

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↵⇥At the top end of the jawbone (also known as the mandible) is the ↵⇥condyle. The TMJ is at the end of the condyle which can move within a ↵⇥space of the skull bone called a fossa. Separating these two bones is a ↵⇥pad of cartilage called an articular disc. ↵⇥

↵⇥When the condyle is ↵⇥not lined up with the articular disc, it cannot do its job as a shock ↵⇥absorber protecting the base of the skull and the brain. Instead, the ↵⇥jawbone is positioned on the base of the skull housing the temporal ↵⇥lobe of the brain. In the event of a strong hit to the jaw or chin, the ↵⇥jawbone slams into the skull. ↵⇥

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↵⇥That hit ultimately affects the temporal lobe and can cause a concussion. ↵⇥

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↵⇥ ↵⇥

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↵⇥Maher’s ↵⇥device makes sure the condyle is always lined up with the disc, thus ↵⇥removing that particular way of receiving a concussion. ↵⇥

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↵Using the mouthguards, the Patriots are believed to have had the fewest concussions of any NFL team last year. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel, former Patriots, are now vocal exponents of the mouthguards among their new teammates. A three-year study co-authored by Maher involving high school players showed a marked decrease in concussions in the years after the mouthguards became standard. And if the NFL can potentially avoid paying out medical costs at the cost of improved mouthguards, you better believe these things will be sweeping the league in short order. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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