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All gums blazing for Wales.

WELSH rugby stars have switched to a new style of gum shield - after boffins claimed the old guards were damaging their on-field performance.

Warren Gatland's Six Nations squad are now using a gum shield which covers both the upper and lower jaw after researchers found the new type could prevent the automatic teeth-clenching that the body naturally performs when placed under stress.

Under Armour - the official WRU supplier which produces the new pieces of kit - claims that whenever a sportsman clenches their jaw, the body releases performance-sapping hormones that produce stress, fatigue and distraction. But other experts last night blasted the scientific reasoning for the switch - and even claim that the piece of kit may have a negative effect on the players' performance.

Dr Samuele Marcora, a senior lecturer in exercise physiology, said that preventing jaw-clenching with these new gum shields may actually reduce the performance of the Welsh rugby team.

He said: "Recently published experimental studies proved that clenching the jaw increases muscle strength and power.

"Several experimental studies show that cortisol has a positive effect on endurance performance.

"In fact, endurance athletes use drugs to increase the level of cortisol over and above the cortisol naturally produced by the body- which is called doping.

"Therefore, if it is true that these new gum shields reduce cortisol levels, their effect may be to reduce the stamina of the Welsh rugby squad."


SWITCH: Gatland
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 7, 2010
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