New research on preventing concussions
Dear NFL Alumni:
For the past few years I have been advocating for the mandatory use of specialized mouth guards in the NFL as a way of reducing injury and possibly preventing concussions.
In studying and researching this issue, I am now convinced that new standards in neuromuscular dentistry should receive the same recognition given to new developments in helmet technology. Any NFL mouth guard mandate being considered should also focus on jaw alignment as it relates to neck strength and upper body muscle asymmetry. These new mouth guard technologies, just as with helmet grading, clearly set the gold standard and should be an essential part of any neck strength initiative, regardless of their effect on concussion.
There is new validated scientific research that shows a well-developed neck likely defuses the potentially damaging forces sometimes generated when a player is hit in the head. Check out this article in Time Magazine: Neck Strength Predicts Concussion Risk
A simple battery of strength tests, now available to team trainers and physicians, can determine if one side of the neck or shoulder may stronger than the other. If they are not symmetrical, it may be a symptom of pinched neuro-pathways due to a misalignment of the Temporal Mandible Joint, commonly known as temporal mandibular joint dysfunction or TMD.
Specialized, neuromuscular mouth guards are engineered to medical grade standard. They are made to open neuro-pathways in correcting each individual’s physiological deficiencies. This approach has shown in research to help in reducing micro trauma resulting in nausea, dings, dizziness, etc., in athletes who are post orthodontic or diagnosed with TMD. More research on concussion is needed in this area and its relation to CTE, but we do know there effect on upper body strength, balance and posture.
This new research has been reviewed by an NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee member who believes there may be a reasonable link. Nonetheless, the NFL isn’t convinced enough to implement a universal mandatory neck training protocol for all 32 teams – or set any standard for the use of any specific mouth guard. Players who have TMD may be at risk without any way of knowing.
The Committee said that every team’s strength and conditioning program emphasizes “neck muscles in one form or another”, but those weight programs lack any standard of care and vary from one team to another – a consistent problem with many NFL policies that pass the buck to the franchises.
The same is true for mouth guards. The common “boil and bite guards” most players use, randomly position the end of the jawbone dangerously close – just millimetres from where Dr. Cantu and military researchers have pinpointed the origins of CTE. That could change with the introduction of the Pure Power Mouth Guard developed by Dr. Anil Makkar and used by numerous professional athletes. Here is a link to their website Bite Advantage
This mouth guard employs a protocol to determine musculature asymmetry and a procedure to place the jaw in the best position for each individual – down to the millimetre.
As opposed to standard mouth guards that are flat-bottomed and mold to the upper teeth, these neuromuscular guards contain both upper and lower tooth indentations and slightly reposition the bite so that the jaw muscles and joints are stabilized, reducing stress on postural and upper body musculature.
Check out this video clip from Monday Night Football where John Gruden, Ron Jaworski and Mike Tirico discuss this new mouth guard technology that most of the New Orleans Saints players are using.
The NFL Commissioner has already gone on record saying “I clearly think you would be safer with a mouth guard in your mouth.”
Sportswriter Mike Florio recently discussed how mandatory leg pads in the NFL may be a gateway for mandatory mouth-guards in concussion prevention. During Florio’s radio talk show, Tony Dungy also supported the mandatory use of mouth guards.
All athletes should consider the new neck strength research and the Pure Power Mouth Guard technology not only for injury prevention, but performance enhancement.
Ravens strength coach Bob Rogucki recently said, “We probably put more emphasis on the neck because of the concussion aspect that now is part of our daily life.” He also said “It’s important that they can walk off the field without their head being strapped down to a [stretcher].”
I think we can all agree with that last statement.
Send the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell and the NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith a quick email letting them know that it’s time to protect players by mandating the use of neuromuscular mouth guards and the establishment of a league-wide uniform protocol for neck and shoulder strength symmetry.
Just click on the following links and it should take you directly to your email program.
As former players, we have always been at the forefront of helping active players by advocating for changes in their equipment, game rules, practice conditions and the NFL policies that they play under. Without our voices added to the mix, it is unlikely that many changes would have made by the NFL or NFLPA.