If you train any combat sport long enough, chances are you’ll regularly get stuck in sparring. In most cases your gym won’t advise you spar (at least not with headshots) unless you have a mouthguard of some sort. In general while different products may be more or less effective, in general they all add some amount of protection to keep your teeth safe. That’s common knowledge. But what about concussions and head trauma? Does having something to bite down on make you less likely to get knocked out? Do mouthguards help prevent knockouts?
You may have heard the term ‘Glass Chin’ used before, often to refer to a fighter who’s far too easily knocked out. You may also have heard of fighters taking part in neck or even jaw exercises in an attempt to prevent themselves getting knocked out.
In a way there’s some truth to this saying. When receiving a strike, having good neck strength can be one factor which can reduce the effects of a punch. Below is a video of fighter Yi Long, who infamously taunts his opponents by letting them hit him repeatedly in the face, seemingly impossible to knock out.
As you can see, Yi Long keeps his neck tensed with little movement, and his jaw closed tightly. This is where a mouthguard can help a little. By giving a solid way to bite down, you can stabilise the jaw, which in turn can tighten up the neck muscles.
So mouthguards do help then? Well… not really.
It’s a bit of a misconception that mouthguards can actually help prevent concussions, let alone a full knockout. While mouthguards do help to tense up the muscles, this actually isn’t as effective as it seems, and even Yi Long has been knocked out performing his stunt. This is because if you look at things from a scientific standpoint, it’s not actually the jaw which causes knockouts. Inside the skull, the brain is surrounded by fluid which cushions it from light impact. Concussions and knockouts are caused when your head is hit so forcefully that your brain essentially bounces inside of your skull, almost like whiplash. It almost goes without saying that suffering whiplash on the part of your body which controls the rest of it probably isn’t the best idea.
The reason many people attribute knockouts with the chin is likely more because a solid punch in the chin often works as a lever, suddenly twisting your head to the side, which slams the brain across the side of the skull. Even if you’re biting down on a brilliant shock absorbing mouthguard, a decent on impact will still likely hit your head pretty hard, knocking you back or even forcing your head to twist sharply, which is more than enough to knock your brain around.
So if mouthguards don’t help much, then how can you prevent being knocked out?
Well we’re no medical experts, but we do know that the best way to avoid a knockout is to not get hit in the first place. A solid defence is why fighters like Floyd Mayweather have never been knocked out, or even knocked down. Rolling with punches can avoid the sudden shock of a punch, while blocking takes the impact on the gloves. It’s also been stated that dehydration can cause a decrease in the brain’s surrounding fluid, so staying hydrated at all times and avoiding huge weight cuts can drastically help.
Here’s a video from Shane Fazen at Fight Tips (See our interview with him here) to help show a few more pointers to help you reduce the risk of unnecessary concussions and that unwanted knockout.
Hopefully you’re now a bit more clued up regarding the myth that mouthuards actually help prevent knockouts. While they may add a good sense of security, they’re main purpose is to protect the teeth – a pretty important job – and not to prevent knockouts. If you are in the market for a new mouthguard though, it’s important you get the best. To make sure you get it right, take a look at a few of our Mouthguard reviews to fight the one best for you.