Keeping Score

Neck Strength Predicts Concussion Risk, Study Says

New research shows that stronger necks may lead to safer heads.

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For years, biomechanics researchers have suspected that girls had higher concussion rates than boys in sports like soccer and lacrosse because of gender differences in neck strength. The weaker your neck, the more likely your head will bob around on impact. And concussions are caused by the brain shaking inside the skull.

For the first time, new research backs up this conclusion. Before practices and games, athletes shouldn’t just be stretching and strengthening their legs and backs. They should be working out their necks as well.

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.

(MORE: Kids Competing Too Soon After Concussions)

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%.

Comstock, and her colleagues, have submitted this research for peer review. “We focus so much on how to properly diagnose concussions,” Comstock says. “That’s obviously important, but preventing concussions is a much better outcome. We’re not saying that you won’t get a concussion if your neck is stronger. But the data shows that neck strengthening has strong potential as a key concussion prevention tool.” This is a pilot study: this data is almost begging for a follow-up study in f00tball, where repeated head trauma seems to have the most dangerous consequences. Do stronger necks correlate with less concussions in that sport?

Still, this new study is very promising. Neck strengthening exercises are easy. For example, you can use your own hands as a resistance tool — put your hands on the back of your head, and press them forward while your bend your neck backwards. They don’t require any huge investment in additional equipment; that’s important for today’s cash-strapped schools.

The takeaway is clear: don’t neglect your neck. Your head may thank you later.

MORE: Head Games – Why Girls Are Getting More Concussions Than Boys

62 comments
spinesnh
spinesnh

www.nexerciser.org;  Neck exercise for any age, any gender, any time , any where

ignite_sc
ignite_sc

@physioweb Interesting.. But oldschool wrestlers and boxers were onto this long before the physio establishment did this study. #neckftw

Natalie_Lynn
Natalie_Lynn

@coreytkelly can't wait to be back at your studio for some yoga...it's been a couple months too long!!

evilryu29
evilryu29

@kaitlin_young lol I hope u a good day

FWT4
FWT4

@physioweb Fascinating.

andyroberts1234
andyroberts1234

@physioweb Interesting study,but why fatigue the muscles before the game? Surely more chance of injury? At least to begin with. Train after!

MomsTEAM
MomsTEAM

@i1biometrics // @time reads our articles.

trainhard123
trainhard123

www.concussionpreventionprotocol.com     Check it out.

JimE3434
JimE3434

@CoachSomebody @TIME Stronger brains

axon_vancouver
axon_vancouver

@JeffreyFDunn @TIME Thanks Jeff. Stronger necks = better resistance to rotational acceleration forces = less brain movement = :) athletes

i1biometrics
i1biometrics

@NATA1950 @k_s_institute @kingdevicktest Read that the other day. Interesting theories, no?

jrulio
jrulio

“@TIME: Study: A stronger neck could reduce concussion risk | http://t.co/Uj7OzbvVzz" @kabult is in trouble. @SoDapped @BeMOtownie @sswill_

TarekGherbal
TarekGherbal

@BMoussalli @timesports heard about it, there's a debate here b/c it's only 1 study. In theory the concept is right, we need more research

jorgeeu2
jorgeeu2

“@TIME: Study: A stronger neck could reduce concussion risk | http://t.co/ebhpOq8Xo8 (via @TIMESports)” / I see a little bit of irony here

Wyabutterfly
Wyabutterfly

@TIME @timesports RT stronger necks <conclusions.....BS

crazzybuddy
crazzybuddy

@TIME @timesports Jamat & Shibir made a number of massive attacks throughout Bangladesh. Please check #Shahbag

ConcussionMom
ConcussionMom

@concussionprep absolutely Great article Whiplash has a long painful recovery and often coincides w/a concussion. Neck strengthening crucial

concussionprep
concussionprep

A stronger neck can help reduce whiplash-type injuries. But thats only a small step in decreasing concussion injuries and symptoms. MindMenders Clinic 


DrKellyCCSP
DrKellyCCSP

@neurodoctad @time I have said that for 3 years. Only makes sense. It's an acceleration/ deceleration injury. Thanks for posting it.

spot60spot
spot60spot

@TIME Football has known this for decades.

Steve777
Steve777

Neuromuscular mouth guards have been linked to neck strength.

shadowpara
shadowpara

@TIME how do you achieve a stronger neck?

Sat_Jeev
Sat_Jeev

@TIME oh really? how strange.

heeltoe989
heeltoe989

@TIME it's doesn't take a study to figure that out.

jhought14
jhought14

@TRedd @Iamjordanharris @Jack_Bunbury @RilesReid ATOMIC NECK!!!! #McClure

RHY328
RHY328

#nfl players already have huge necks tho “@TIME: New study: A stronger neck may help lower concussion risk | http://t.co/WFEm4mW1pg

physioweb
physioweb

@ignite_sc Understood. Always good to have some scientific validation though.

physioweb
physioweb

@andyroberts1234 Agreed. Strengthening should occur before but long enough before to allow fatigue recovery.

DrRalph123
DrRalph123

@DerekSheelyFdtn  

Hi The neck, head and upper-back must be properly trained to withstand the impact and contact of the sport. The athlete is protected if trained properly if they see the hit coming or not. Newtons's second law states if the force is the same a larger neck will reduce acceleration. Many researcher are advocating neck strength without the knowledge and skill set to produce the results needed to make a difference in outcomes. www.concussionpreventionprotocol.com

ConcernedMom9
ConcernedMom9

@DerekSheelyFdtn @SportsCAPP @TIME are there limits to how much girls & kids can strengthen necks too?

i1biometrics
i1biometrics

@MomsTEAM Then @time are judicious readers.

JeffreyFDunn
JeffreyFDunn

@axon_vancouver I wonder if neck warmup is protecting a subgroup w concussion symptoms but who's neck injury leads to longer term headache

kingdevicktest
kingdevicktest

@i1biometrics @NATA1950 @K_S_Institute This was covered pretty well in the film Head Games. Great resource if you haven't seen it.

TRedd
TRedd

@jhought14 @Iamjordanharris @Jack_Bunbury @RilesReid That's the first thing I thought of. & I thought we just did that cuz McClure hated us

axon_vancouver
axon_vancouver

@JeffreyFDunn interesting idea Jeff. Touch base on email at bates@axoneas.com and we can explore the idea a bit further. Cheers.

i1biometrics
i1biometrics

@kingdevicktest @nata1950 @k_s_institute Yes, watched @HeadGamesFilm. Great film.

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