Neck Strength/Power in Concussion Prevention
December 17, 2014
In further articles coming shortly I will be discussing other potential concussion prevention techniques, some that we have discussed briefly on this blog before. Today I want to say a few words about neck strength, size and power and how it relates to the incidence of concussion. My opinions are just that, opinions, but they are based on personal observation(anecdotal admittedly) while treating hundreds of concussions annually as well as the literature out there currently. The literature is clear that the weaker, smaller necks predispose to increase concussions.
Concussions are caused by the rapid jolting of the brain inside our skulls, from linear, angular and rotational forces. While certains helmets graded by Virgina Tech(whose conclusions I largely support) can and do ameliorate some of the linear forces in football, they are not the answer alone(reference upcoming blog).
There is an absolute striking disparity between female and male soccer players in terms of the rate of concussions incurred in the United States between the two groups. While football and hockey still lead (for now), female soccer players have almost twice the incidence of concussions than male soccer players.
So then why is it that, depending on the study, ladies have almost twice the rate of concussion in soccer than men? It is certainly not helmets, which are uncommon in both male and female soccer. Is it the size of the shoulders? More agility in men that protects them? From what I have seen it is neck strength and even size during headers and ‘incidental’ elbows to the head, etc.
This last year at FMHS we had a remarkable turn of events in football. Our trainers instituted neck strengthening exercises and we had zero Varsity level concussions for the year as opposed to a dozen or more from years back. The number of 7-9th grade concussions remained the same. This could be from a variety of factors though and certainly not from neck strengthening alone–by using a high rated Virgina Tech Helmet in older players (to be discussed again later, see prior discussions), increased susceptibility of younger athletes, better coaching techniques!, rule changes to the game of football and more. I’ll lay the majority of the blame on the increased susceptibility at that age to concussion. But I feel our neck strengthening program had to play a part in reducing our varsity level football concussions.
I would reccomend working with a physical therapist that we use locally in the Flower Mound and DFW locale because of their expertise in concussion prevention through neck strengthening, Tony Michels and his group. Or depend on your local Certified Athletic Trainer from your school (all excellent in L.I.S.D.!!!) if you are serious about concussion prevention.
Here are a few exercises that can be done at home with no or minimal equipment: