Mouthguards are used by almost everyone participating in sports. These devices, typically purchased over-the-counter and used on the upper teeth, are designed to protect against broken teeth and an injured tongue. Recently, researchers in South Carolina found that a customized device which rests on the lower jaw can decrease levels of serum cortisol following exercise. The reduction of this steroid hormone indicates less stress following strenuous activity and may provide a more rapid recovery after intense muscle exertion.
The findings will be presented in an abstract of the study conducted by Wes D. Dudgeon, Larry A. Buchanan, Ashley E. Strickland, and Dena P. Garner, from the Department of Health, Exercise, and Sport Science at The Citadel; and Timothy P. Scheett, from the Department of Health and Human Performance from the College of Charleston, all in Charleston, South Carolina. The study, "Mouthpiece Use Reduces Post Exercise Serum Cortisol Levels," is part of the science being presented at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012, being held April 21-25 at the San Diego Convention Center. The abstract is sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS), one of six scientific societies sponsoring the conference which last year attracted some 14,000 attendees.
Study and Results
The researchers studied 13 college-age males who wore the custom-made mouthpieces that allowed the lower jaw to move down and slightly forward when teeth were clenched due to a wedge shaped design during one exercise session and did not wear the mouthpiece during the other. All participants completed two identical exercise trials, separated by seven days, of ten repetitions of back squats with a two minute rest period between sets. Blood was collected immediately before, during, and immediately after each event and during three subsequent periods during recovery (30-, 60- and 120-minutes post-exercise). The samples were analyzed for physiological changes in cortisol.
Researchers found no difference in pre-exercise cortisol levels between the groups. However, the group that wore the mouthpiece had lower cortisol levels at the midpoint (19.39±6.90 vs. 27.84±14.55) and 30 minutes after exercise (22.91±8.47 vs. 31.81±10.79). No differences were found immediately after exercise or at the 60- or 120-minute marks.