Spring training provides a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and discuss new innovations in sports equipment.
Mouthguards have long been accepted as the best way to avoid dental injuries. In recent years, they have also become a fashion statement with various colors and designs adorning the mouths of football, hockey and lacrosse players.
This year, mouthguards are being marketed as a way to improve athletic performance. They are now worn by golfers, as well as baseball and tennis players, as a means to relax muscle tension and maintain posture.
Several baseball players have appeared at spring training with mouthguards produced by PPM and Edge. Most notably, Manny Ramirez has begun to use a Pure Power Mouthguard.
The theory behind this teaching is that relaxed jaw muscles will allow a more relaxed posture and more power being generated. This theory is based on anecdotal evidence rather than any scientific study. In the past, golfers have found that chewing gum often relaxes the grip and swing.
Another product of recent interest is the “Brain Pad.” The brain pad is a mouthguard that is advertised as a way of diminishing the serious effects of traumatic brain injury. This theory is based on an isolated study performed in the 1960s that postulated a relaxed jaw served as a “shock absorber” for the brain. Although never proven, this belief has become part of sports medicine lore.
Despite the lack of scientific support, no one will argue with either of these practices. They result in athletes wearing mouthguards that at a minimum provide dental protection.
Cost is another issue since the Edge and PPM products range from $900-$2,000, while the Brain Pad and other fitted mouthguards cost $25.
No matter what logic is applied, mouthguards are a great idea even if you’re only trying to avoid damage from an errant tennis ball.