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Citadel News Service
27 Apr 2012

HESS professors develop stress lowering exercise mouth guard

Researchers from The Citadel are part of a team that has developed a specialized mouth guard to 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. 


Dena Garner

The findings are presented in an abstract of the study conducted by Citadel Health, Exercise and Sport Science professors Wes D. Dudgeon and Dena P. Garner and two of their graduate students, Larry A. Buchanan and Ashley E. Strickland. Timothy P. Scheett, from the Department of Health and Human Performance from the College of Charleston, also contributed to the team’s work.

The study is believed to be the first of its kind. 

“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,” said Dudgeon. “The findings also show the potential to enhance exercise performance without the use of drugs or supplements.”

The study, “Mouthpiece Use Reduces Post Exercise Serum Cortisol Levels,” was presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting this past April 21-25 at the San Diego Convention Center. The abstract is sponsored by the American Physiological Society, one of six scientific societies sponsoring the conference. 


Wes Dudgeon

The study builds on previously published findings by members of the research team. One study found that oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production increased in people who wore the mouthpiece during a running exercise. A second study found collegiate football players who wore the mouthguard had lower cortisol levels in their saliva following exercise training.

The researchers studied 13 college-age men who wore the custom-made mouthpieces. All participants completed two identical exercise trials separated by seven days. Blood samples were collected before, during and after each event and then during three subsequent periods of recovery. 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 and 30 minutes after exercise. No differences were found immediately after exercise or at the 60- or 120-minute marks.

The researchers have not yet determined why the mouthpiece causes serum cortisol levels to decline. As the mouthguard changes the alignment of the lower jaw, one theory is that the mouthguard increases cerebral blood flow to the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls the stress response. This could in turn reduce the amount of cortisol that is released, according to Dudgeon.

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