Concussion Prevention and Athletic Mouthguards
Concussion is an alteration of consciousness, disturbance in vision and equilibrium caused by a direct blow to the head, rapid acceleration and/or deceleration of the head, or direct blow to the base of the skull from a vertical impact to the chin.
Levels of Concussion
- Asymptomatic - No headache, dizziness or impaired orientation, concentration or memory during rest or exertion.
- Mild (level 1) - No loss of consciousness and Post traumatic amnesia (PTA) less than 30 minutes.
- Moderate (level 2) - Loss of consciousness less than 5 minutes or PTA greater the 30 minutes.
- Severe (level 3) - Loss of consciousness greater than 5 minutes or PTA greater than 24 hours.
Symptoms of Concussion
- Facial pain
- Impaired speech
This discussion is limited to direct blows to the chin. When a heavy blow is delivered to the chin, the force goes up the lower jaw into the jaw joint, at this level the forces are transmitted to major nerves exiting the base of the brain, blood supplies to the brain, as well as the balance center located near the jaw joint. The end result is this force can leave the athlete with one of the concussive levels and symptoms listed above.
Scientific studies and practical experience time and again have demonstrated the effectiveness of mouthguards in preventing facial and dental injuries and especially the prevention of concussion.
Custom mouthguards are prescribed and made by a dentist. They should be of uniform thickness and very importantly both separate the teeth (prevention of dental injuries) and separate the lower jaw from the base of the skull (prevention of concussion).
Without mouthguard the lower jaw in contact with the base of skull.
With mouthguard in place the lower jaw is separated from the base of skull.
(Green arrow represents blow to chin)
Of all sports, it is especially important to wear a mouthguard while participating in football. Often it is the quarterback that wears a mouthguard the least because of interference with speech, as a result he usually receives the most concussions from blows to the chin