No mouthpiece led to Vick's injury?

BY Alex Marvez • September 20, 2011

It’s believed that football mouth guards can help prevent concussions.

Unfortunately for Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback will never know whether that would have been the case in Sunday night’s 35-31 loss to Atlanta.

A video analysis of the game telecast shows Vick wasn’t wearing a mouth guard while playing against the Falcons, including during the accidental collision with Eagles right tackle Todd Herremans that knocked him from the game. The impact left Vick with a concussion and lacerated tongue — both of which may not have occurred had he been using that piece of protective equipment.

The Eagles declined comment through a team spokesman and Vick wasn’t available Tuesday to comment on whether he was wearing a mouth guard.

Vick isn’t required to use one. Neither are any other NFL players because of pushback from the NFL Players Association about making them mandatory despite the league’s strong anti-concussion efforts. The NFLPA also successfully resisted NFL efforts to make the use of other protective equipment like thigh, knee and hip pads mandatory in 2011.

Some of the pushback stems from player comfort concerns. Although form-fitting mouth guards can be crafted by dental specialists, many NFL quarterbacks don’t want to wear them because they believe it impedes their pre-snap ability to audible and call signals at the line of scrimmage.

There also isn’t a definitive medical link between mouth guards and concussion prevention although some studies and anecdotal evidence have strongly suggested this is the case.

In his research of mouth guards, Tufts University professor Dr. Noshir Mehta wrote that there “is evidence the stability of the head and neck is helped by specific jaw posture. A lower guard made by the dentist to hold the jaw in a stable height and position with respect to the upper teeth has been shown to be helpful in reducing the incidence of concussions.”

Vick’s status for Sunday’s home game against the New York Giants is uncertain. With backup quarterback Vince Young still recovering from a preseason hamstring injury, Mike Kafka would be Vick’s replacement.

Kafka did wear a mouth guard when entering the game Sunday night to replace Vick.

During a Monday news conference, Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said it would be “foolish” to provide a timeline for Vick’s expected return.

“Everybody wants to know whether Mike’s going to play,” Burkholder said. “We’re going to go through out protocol. When Mike’s ready to practice, I’m going to turn him over to coach (Andy Reid) and he’s going to make a decision whether he’s ready to play, (take practice) reps, all that kind of stuff.”

The Eagles held Vick out of the Falcons game after following the NFL’s new sideline concussion testing protocol. Vick doesn’t have a concussion history but such injuries often weren’t diagnosed in previous seasons when the NFL’s testing procedures were far more lax.