A custom-made mouthguard that rests on the lower jaw reduced stress levels in athletes during and after exercise and may improve post-exercise recovery time, according to study results presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego, Calif.
Researchers tested the serum cortisol levels — indicative of stress — in 13 college-aged male athletes. The participants performed two identical exercise trials with a week off between workouts. One trial required the athletes to use the custom mouthpiece; the other did not. Typical mouthpieces are worn over the upper teeth. The groups’ cortisol levels were recorded before, during, and immediately after exercise and at 30-, 60-, and 120-minute intervals after each trial.
Researchers found that both groups’ pre-exercise cortisol levels were identical for each trial. Significant changes were recorded, however, at the midpoint (19.39±6.90 when wearing the mouthguard vs. 27.84±14.55 without the device) and 30 minutes after exercise (22.91±8.47 vs. 31.81±10.79). Blood tests taken immediately after exercise and 60 minutes and 120 minutes post-exercise did not show major changes in cortisol levels.
Researchers theorized that the mouthpiece changed the athlete’s lower jaw alignment, increasing cerebral blood flow to the hypothalamus where stress response is controlled, and thus reduced cortisol release.
“The findings are important because decreasing the cortisol response after exercise may lead to a quicker recovery time which is an important consideration for those who train daily, such as competitive athletes,” researchers said in a news release “The findings also show the potential to enhance exercise performance without the use of drugs or supplements.”
For more information:
Dudgeon WD. Abstract #1142.59. Presented at: Experimental Biology 2012, April 21-25, San Diego, Calif.