Honours Research: Investigating Performance Enhancing Mouth Guards with Rachelle Aucoin

By Theodore Giesen

Theodore Giesen is a summer co-op student in the Research Office, and an undergraduate English student here at Acadia. Over the summer, Theodore has been interviewing Acadia students and faculty about their recent research activities and writing up his findings in profiles for the website. We'll be sharing profiles like this one in the coming weeks - check back for more stories of research at Acadia.

As our understanding of the human body improves, so does our ability to enhance and complement the body with modern applications. Rachelle Aucoin, an Honours student in Kinesiology, is working on a jaw-repositioning mouth guard with the goal to improve posture and balance in varsity athletes. As a varsity athlete herself, Aucoin is very interested in studying any way that athletes can both improve their performance and prevent injuries. Aucoin will supplement work that has been done on mouth guards and their influence on aerobic and anaerobic endurance by her supervisor, Dr. Said Makery (Kinesiology).

Varsity athletes have a window of opportunity to compete at a high level and showcase their talents, so any injury is tragic to their careers. Aucoin believes that by repositioning an athlete’s jaw with these customized mouth guards, the central nervous system will reactivate muscles and reflexes that can improve athletic performance, as well as prevent future injuries. The mouth guard will clench the user’s teeth together and is to be worn during practice and performance. To establish a baseline for her research, Aucoin will invite 30 varsity and competitive athletes to do balance tests without the mouth guard, and then a follow-up test with the mouth guard in use. Participating athletes will be given the mouth guard to keep for their own personal use, which creates an opportunity to conduct further research on long-term injury prevention and posture.

Aucoin is very passionate about her thesis, though she has a broader horizon ahead. She is using her Honours experience to get a feel for the research process and would like to continue learning and innovating alongside Acadia’s research community. Many doors have been opened to volunteer opportunities, interesting classes, and sporting teams, and all her experience has led her to ask, “What can I give back?”. Rather than concentrate solely on just professional or varsity athletes, Aucoin would like to open her research to all age and skill brackets. Aucoin imagines one day having her own business where she is able to assist all athletes with her knowledge of the human body. She has already taken steps to expand her portfolio with a study focusing on older adults and their sense of balance. Everyday activities such as driving and getting dressed could be made safer and simpler for the elderly with a stronger sense of balance. Aucoin will continue her ongoing work and start thinking about graduate studies in the future.

Aucoin will be presenting the findings of her research at Acadia University's Annual Student Research and Innovation Conference held by the Acadia Graduate Students around late February-March 2019. She will also be presenting at the Atlantic Provinces Exercise Scientists and Socioculturalists (APES) Conference, March 24-25, hosted by Dalhousie University. Previous Acadia students have been successful in submitting research on mouth guards to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, so Aucoin will look to get her work published there. Look forward to seeing all Honours theses in the Library or available online once completed.

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