Effect of wearing a mouthguard on physical ability is dependent on occlusal contact state: A study involving elite level female handball players

Author(s): Mutsumi Takahashi, Yogetsu Bando, Katsuhiko Kitaoka, Keisuke Hata

The purpose of this study was to clarify the effects of wearing a mouthguard on the physical performance of handball players, depending on their individual occlusal contact state. Participants were 15 elite-level female handball players (25.7±3.2 years). Occlusal contact state was measured and divided into two groups; stable group and unstable group. Physical fitness test consisted of 8 items evaluating agility, explosive power, muscle strength, jumping ability, and flexibility, namely, step 50, pro-agility, three-cone drill, medicine ball scoop throw, vertical jump, back muscle strength, spread legs, and prone upper body arched. These tests were conducted under two conditions: not wearing and wearing a custom mouthguard. Scores of each test were analyzed using a split plot design, with occlusal balance and mouthguard as factors. In the stable group, scores on any of the tests were not affected by wearing a mouthguard. In the unstable group, wearing a mouthguard significantly improved test scores except for spread legs and prone upper body arched. The results of this study revealed that the effect of wearing a mouthguard on a handball player’s physical ability is influenced by the player’s occlusal contact state. In athletes with poor occlusal contact, improving occlusal contact by wearing a mouthguard had a positive impact on physical performance, mainly in terms of agility, explosive power, muscle strength, and jumping ability. However, for athletes who already had good occlusal contact, wearing a mouthguard did not affect their physical performance.

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