Many contact sports require athletes to wear mouthguards to minimize risk of orofacial trauma. However, some research findings suggest mouthguards may increase airway resistance and potentially hinder physical performance. Currently, there is lack of consensus. Furthermore, there is a new type of mouthguard (aero-style) that purports to be superior to the standard boil-and-bite mouthguard. PURPOSE: Compare the effects of two boil-and-bite mouthguard styles on pulmonary function, maximal exercise capacity, and select measures at sub-maximal exercise intensity. METHODS: In random & fully repeated experimental design, seven subjects (4 male, 3 female; age = 21 ± 0.5 y; stature =174 ± 10.6 cm; mass = 76 ± 11.6 kg) completed pulmonary tests of forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume 1 sec (FEV1.0), and maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV, L·min-1) trials using no mouthguard (CONT), standard boil-and-bite mouthguard (SMG), and the aero-design boil-and-bite mouthguard (AMG). Similarly, participants completed cycle-ergometry graded exercise tests for the three mouthguard conditions (CONT, AMG, SMG). In addition to VO2 peak (ml·kg-1·min-1), rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and dyspnea were measured at moderate intensity (50% VO2 peak). One-way repeated measures ANOVA and post-hoc tests compared the three mouthguard conditions with respect to pulmonary function (FEV1.0/FVC %, MVV), VO2 peak, and select measures at moderate intensity exercise (RPE, dyspnea). RESULTS: ANOVA (α = 0.05) revealed no difference in mouthguard condition with respect to FEV1.0 / FVC (%; CONT = 70.6 ± 13.6, SMG = 75.7 ± 12.3, AMG = 78.2 ± 12.2), MVV (L·min-1; CONT = 125.6 ± 46.9, SMG = 101.6 ± 27.2, AMG = 126.3 ± 45.6), or VO2 peak (ml·kg-1·min-1; CONT = 43.7 ± 6.4, SMG = 42.4 ± 6.5, AMG = 44.3 ± 7.6). MVV approached significance (F2,12 = 3.69, p = 0.056). Similarly, during moderate intensity exercise, mouthguards did not have any effect on RPE or dyspnea, although dyspnea approached significance (F2,12 = 3.69, p = 0.056). CONCLUSION: Based on the limited sample size in this study, mouthguards do not hinder pulmonary function, perception of exertion or dyspnea at moderate intensity exercise, or peak performance. Furthermore, there was no difference between the standard boil-and-bite mouthguard and the new aero design mouthguard in any of the variables tested. However, the p-value for MVV was approaching significance (p = 0.056), with the SMG associated with lower MVV than either CONT or AMG. Interestingly, dyspnea showed the same trend. Further research is warranted to investigate and confirm this observation.

Supported by Pacific University Research Grant.

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