A Smart Way to Protect Athletes

Mouthguards can measure biomarkers in saliva to monitor players’ health.

 

The humble mouthguard may not the most alluring wearable device ever, but it’s certainly worth using in the name of keeping teeth intact and possibly reducing concussion injuries during full-contact sports. (I still have a tiny chip in my tooth from playing water polo in high school. When I was mediocre at played lacrosse my first year of college, my mouthguard was always with me.)

Some smart folks at startups and universities have been looking into connecting and getting health information from mouthguards, particularly since gathering info this way promises great convenience. The field of diagnostics based on saliva is relatively new, but more research is being done on the ways that fatigue and exertion can be measured based on levels of uric acid, lactate and more.

Such an application also has benefit because it offers continuous information delivered in real time by something athletes would be wearing anyway, and it’s far less invasive than blood or urine collection. Smart mouthguards could measure biometric information such as heart rate and respiration. There’s even a mouthguard in the works that lights up when it senses a high probability of head injury after impact in hopes of preventing athletes from returning to the game when further evaluation is needed.

And there are other people who could benefit from the devices—including soldiers and pilots—who may be exposed to high impact and must operate on high levels of stamina.

 

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