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The Effects of a Customized Over-the-Counter Mouth Guard on Neuromuscular Force and Power Production in Trained Men and Women

Dunn-Lewis, Courtenay; Luk, Hui-Ying; Comstock, Brett A.; Szivak, Tunde K.; Hooper, David R.; Kupchak, Brian R.; Watts, Ashley M.; Putney, Brendan J.; Hydren, Jay R.; Volek, Jeff S.; Denegar, Craig R.; Kraemer, William J.

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: April 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 4 - p 1085–1093
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824b4d5b
Original Research

Abstract: Dunn-Lewis, C, Luk, H-Y, Comstock, BA, Szivak, TK, Hooper, DR, Kupchak, BR, Watts, AM, Putney, BJ, Hydren, JR, Volek, JS, Denegar, CR, and Kraemer, WJ. The effects of a customized over-the-counter mouth guard on neuromuscular force and power production in trained men and women. J Strength Cond Res 26(4): 1085–1093, 2012—Although mouth guards were originally designed for injury prevention, even elite athletes are now using performance mouth guards to improve athletic success. Both expensive custom models and over-the-counter models are available, but the efficacy is not well known. Some athletes remain wary of the perceived potential for detriments using a mouth guard to their performance. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine various physical performance tests when using a mouth guard including a customized over-the-counter mouth guard. Twenty-six trained men (25 ± 4 years; 1.78 ± 0.07 m; 83.3 ± 11.4 kg) and 24 trained women (23 ± 3 years; 1.65 ± 0.08 m; 62.6 ± 7.8 kg) volunteered for the investigation. The subjects completed a familiarization period and then balanced and randomized treatment conditions that included: (a) a customized Power Balance performance mouth guard (PB MG); (b) a regular over the counter boil-and-bite mouth guard (Reg MG); and (c) a no mouth guard (No MG) treatment condition. At each visit, the subjects completed a testing protocol that was sequenced in the following order: sit-and-reach flexibility, medial-lateral balance, visual reaction time, vertical jump, 10-m sprint, bench throw, and plyo press power quotient (3PQ). Heart rate and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were recorded around the 3PQ. Significance was set at p ≤ 0.05. Expected significant sex differences existed for all power, strength, and speed variables. Bench throw power (watts) and force (newtons) were significantly higher under PB MG than either Reg MG or No MG or in both men and women. The 3PQ power and force production were higher than that for the other 2 treatments for the PB MG for men only. There were no significant differences for treatment conditions in the heart rate or RPE after the 3PQ test. Men were better able to maintain significantly higher 3PQ power production under PB MG treatment condition compared with the other 2 treatment conditions. Rate of power development was significantly higher in men for the vertical jump when using the PB MG compared with that for other treatment conditions in men only. No differences were observed in flexibility, balance, visual reaction time, or sprint time. The PB MG performance mouth guard improves performance of upper-body loaded power exercises in both men and women and lower body power exercise in men without compromising performance on any other performance parameters.

Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut.

Address correspondence to William J. Kraemer,

Copyright © 2012 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.