Are Smart Mouthguards The Solution To Sports-Related Concussions?


Word Count

699 words

Reading Level

Listen to Article

Every year, sports-related concussions affect several hundred thousand athletes - both professional and amateur. What's worrying is that despite advances in protective gear technology, the numbers are only increasing. According to CDC, emergency room visits relating to sports related injuries including concussions among children and adolescents, has increased by 60% in the last decade. While the fact that football and ice hockey players are the most susceptible to the head injury is not surprising, the high concussion rates in non-contact sports like lacrosse and soccer is certainly worrisome.

The good news is that concussions, which are described as “mild” brain injuries are usually not life-threatening. However, they are sometimes severe enough to result in permanent brain damage and even death. That is why impacted athletes should not be allowed to return to the field without receiving proper medical attention.

Surprisingly though, surveys indicate that a significant amount of student athletes -16% or more - return to a game right after sustaining a head injury.

To try and combat this worrying trend, Kirkland, Washington, based i1 Biometrics has devised a smart mouthguard. Called Vector, it looks and feels just like a normal mouthguard, except for one thing - it is fitted with advanced accelerometers and gyroscopes, which can wirelessly relay information from the mouthpiece to a computer program that can run on a tablet or smartphone.

Because the Vector mouthguard is attached to the upper jaw, it accurately measures skull movement and the acceleration and deceleration of the brain during impact and transmits an alert each time a player is hit, informing the coach of his/her name, the G-force and location of the injury.

In addition, the coaches also receive a 3D rendering of the player's head with the impact details. This allows them to closely monitor the athletes that are sustaining the most hits during a game and also help correct their form, like if they are using the crown of their helmets to tackle - a strategy that is both unsafe and illegal in football. Additionally, the data gathered is also useful to help the continuing studies on enhancing the safety of the sport.

The Vector Mouthguard is currently being tested by twenty players on Louisiana State University's football team. While the program is still in its initial stages, Jack Marucci, the director of athletic training is happy with the accuracy and the data he receives from this smart device. He plans to send a full report of his team's findings to the NCAA, in hopes of reducing injuries at the fall camp "two-a-day" practices, which are known for hard-hitting tactics. Senior associate athletic trainer Shelley Mullenix concurs, describing the alerts from the mouthguard, as a "second set of eyes."

If all goes well in this final phase of testing, Vector Mouthguards will be in stores by fall 2015. Priced at $199 USD, the device is not cheap, but it is a small price to pay to protect players from life-threatening injuries. Besides, it is extremely durable, which means that most high school players will only need to buy it once! The best news is that will be available in various sizes so that even athletes as young as 12, can be protected.

i1 Biometrics is not the only company that has come up with a smart mouthguard. Arizona State University football players Anthony Gonzales and Bob Merriman, are also working on a prototype. Called FITGuard, it is designed to indicate when a blow to the head is serious enough to warrant further attention. The device is fitted with a green LED strip on the front that turns blue when it detects a medium force impact and red when there is an above-50 percent chance the athlete has suffered a concussion. The data sent by FITGuard can be downloaded on to an app for the trainers to analyze and decide on the best course of action.

Though mouthguards are currently worn primarily by athletes involved in contact sports, there is no reason why they can't be used to monitor the increasing injury rates for soccer and basketball players. Hopefully, these smart devices will encourage more athletes to start thinking about wearing the mouthpieces.


Cite Article
Learn Keywords in this Article
  • disgurlswims
    disgurlswims8 months
    I play lacrosse and mouth gaurds really help! Esspecally when you are pushing and throwing balls at each other
    • erincs2010
      erincs2010about 1 year
      • nora2021
        nora2021over 1 year
        When you get a concussion BRUH STAY CALM! Even if it hurts really bad stay calm. It will be better if you stay calm because your nerves will relax
        • nora2021
          nora2021almost 2 years
          As a lacrosse player I think that... CONCUSSIONS HURT! They are not something to laugh about. My friend got once and she was seriously hurt...
          • k-quine
            k-quineabout 2 years
            thats smart I need one I ride horses last time I fell off I fit the log we were jumping it hurt.
            • sweet-readlover
              sweet-readloverabout 2 years
              This is cool
              • tnieves21
                tnieves21over 2 years
                I don't know what I'd do of I got a concussion and couldn't play basketball! Not playing this year because of corona is bad enough!
                • fortniteseller
                  fortniteselleralmost 3 years
                  wow never knew that. now I will be even safer when I play
                  • catdog01about 3 years
                    thats cool
                    • Meover 3 years
                      that sounds awesome