In a sport where hundredths of a second can be the difference between winning a race and getting 5th or 6th, every little detail is important. That’s why I train 5 days a week, 4 hours a day; I’m trying to get as fast and strong as possible. I also try to keep up with new developments in equipment, which is usually a significant challenge because of cost. If I could have a new set of runners for every race, and a new sled every year…it would be amazing.
Over the past two years I started to hear about Agility Guard, which is basically a new kind of mouthguard. To be honest, at first I wondered how different one mouthguard could be from another. I have always used the Sport Chek $20 special, which seemed to work fine, and was easy on the wallet. But after hearing about Agility Guard more frequently, and seeing some of the successful American sliders proudly wear theirs, I started to look into it more seriously.
I was fortunate to come into contact with the Southern Alberta supplier of Ability Guard, Dr. Larry Stanleigh. He walked me through the specifications of the Agility Guard, including how and why they work. I learned how they can not only improve performance, but also safety. After our initial discussion I decided to go ahead and get one made.
It is quite a process. After the initial consultation, the next step includes getting some dental imprints taken. Then you are hooked up to a facial muscle stimulator to relax the facial muscles. It was a little strange, having my facial muscles (including my eyelids), contract repeatedly for over an hour with no control from me. It wasn’t painful in the least though. It was similar to Dr. Ho’s pain therapy system if you have ever tried that. Once my face was sufficiently tenderized, my head was stabilized in a scaffolding like device while Dr. Larry tracked my facial/jaw movements on the computer.
Next, he created three different prototype mouthguards that would align my jaw in different ways. To determine which was the best alignment for me, he did some strength and flexibility testing with each of the mouthguards in. After picking the color (gold of course!), we were finished for the day. The whole process took a few hours.
A couple of weeks later the Agility Guards arrived, one for sliding and one for lifting. They are super comfortable and look great. I am anxious to get onto the ice to see if I can notice any improvement in my performance. Even if I can’t notice a difference immediately there is some preliminary evidence indicating it is also an important component of concussion/head injury prevention. For that alone this well fitted and personalized device is worth it. Until then I am getting used to lifting with a mouthguard.
Only 5 weeks left until the ice opens! Thanks to Agility Guard, one more piece of the puzzle in is place as I prepare for the upcoming season.