Check Up from the Neck Up
Insights and perspectives on injury prevention, rehabilitation, health and fitness
It is still amazing to me the resistance I face when I state that a strong neck can and will help minimize and prevent concussions. Once again I reiterate what I have said before. I recently interviewed Dr. Robert Cantu. He is considered by many to be the foremost expert on concussions. He stated in my interview that for every one pound of neck strength you add to you neck the chance of a concussion lessens by 5%. The article I quote below provides more details.
To understand how a strong neck protects the brain from the concussive forces of a violent blow to the head picture a speed bag tethered only by a chain, (a skinny little neck), to it’s overhead base being hit hard by a boxer. One blow will send it bouncing back and forth for quite some time as the bag slowly dissipates the violent contact. Now picture the speed bag secured to it’s overhead base with a large stiff rubber column, (a strong neck), as thick in diameter as the speed bag itself. When it gets punched by the boxer it barely moves as the force of the blow is dissipated by the strong rubber column into the base. Which speed bag would you want your “brain” in? Athletes need a strong neck cylinder to dissipate concussive forces down to the torso or their “base” to protect their brain.
In physics, dissipation embodies the concept of a dynamical system where mechanical modes lose energy over time, typically due to the action of friction or turbulence. The lost energy is converted into heat, raising the temperature of the system. Such systems are called dissipative systems. A strong neck is such a dissipative system. When violent contact occurs to the head the mechanical mode (neck muscles) resist the blow fighting the force by slowing down the head movement and dissipating the force down into the torso protecting the brain from the concussive forces.
A strong neck creates greater force dissipation – when we dissipate force from a blow to the head effectively we prevent and minimize concussions. My goal is to help in the prevention of concussions and neck injuries by increasing athlete’s neck strength. Greater neck strength equals greater force dissipation upon head impact which equals far fewer neck injuries and concussions.
Below are just a few excerpts from articles that what I have stated:
I quote Sean Gregory in an article for Time Magazine:
At the fourth annual Youth Sports Safety Summit in early February, Dawn Comstock, associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, presented the findings. During the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years, athletic trainers collected measurements of head circumference, neck circumference, neck length, and four measurements of neck strength — extension, flexion, right lateral and left lateral — on 6,704 athletes nationwide across three sports; boys’ and girls’ soccer, lacrosse and basketball. These measures were taken before the start of the season; during the season, athletic trainers reported injury data — including concussion incidence — for each athlete.
And the results didn’t favor those with tiny necks: concussed athletes had smaller mean neck circumference, a smaller mean neck-circumference-to head-circumference ratio (in other words, a small neck paired with a large head), and smaller mean overall neck strength than athletes who did not suffer a concussion. After adjusting for gender and sport, overall neck strength remained a statistically significant predictor of concussion. For every one pound increase in neck strength, odds of concussion fell by 5%.
Read more at: http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2013/02/21/study-neck-strength-predicts-concussion-risk/#ixzz2j80QSSBv
I quote Ralph Cornwell PhD. from and article “A case for training the neck”
To minimize head injuries, let’s revisit the neck/trapezius area and see how these muscles play a critical role. Neck muscles act as springs and shock absorbers; bigger, stronger necks can better absorb with less deformation. Recalling the laws of physics, consider the neck as a cylinder. The larger the circumference of the cylinder, the more load it can support without buckling.
As training the neck area increases strength there, the soft tissue thickens and the neck becomes stiffer. Using physics again to explain the necessity for stiffness, view the neck as a coiled spring. The thicker the coils of the spring, the greater the stiffness ratio. A smaller, less stiff spring is easier to compress from an axial-loading standpoint. A stiffer spring–or stronger neck–deflects greater frontal or side impact forces.
All variables being equal, if a given cylinder increases its diameter by two inches–say from six inches to eight inches–the deformation decreases 43 percent. Common sense, simple logic, or even strong speculation suggests that a bigger, stronger neck would give an athlete a better chance of avoiding serious injury when absorbing impact forces during collisions.
Read more at: http://www.training-conditioning.com/2012/07/18/a_case_for_training_the_neck/index.php
I Quote Malcolm Gladwell writing in The New Yorker:
At one point, while he was discussing his research, Guskiewicz showed a videotape from a 1997 college football game between Arizona and Oregon. In one sequence, a player from Oregon viciously tackles an Arizona player, bringing his head up onto the opposing player’s chin and sending his helmet flying with the force of the blow. To look at it, you’d think that the Arizona player would be knocked unconscious. Instead, he bounces back up. “This guy does not sustain a concussion,” Guskiewicz said. “He has a lip laceration. Lower lip, that’s it. Now, same game, twenty minutes later.” He showed a clip of an Arizona defensive back making a dramatic tackle. He jumps up, and, as he does so, a teammate of his chest-bumps him in celebration. The defensive back falls and hits his head on the ground. “That’s a Grade 2 concussion,” Guskiewicz said. “It’s the fall to the ground, combined with the bounce off the turf.”
The force of the first hit was infinitely greater than the second. But the difference is that the first player saw that he was about to be hit and tensed his neck, which limited the sharp back-and-forth jolt of the head that sends the brain crashing against the sides of the skull. In essence, he was being hit not in the head but in the head, neck, and torso—an area with an effective mass three times greater. In the second case, the player didn’t see the hit coming. His head took the full force of the blow all by itself. That’s why he suffered a concussion. But how do you insure, in a game like football, that a player is never taken by surprise?
Read More at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/19/091019fa_fact_gladwell