It has long been suspected that neck strength played a role in determining how susceptible a person is to brain injury, especially considering females have consistently had higher concussion rates than males in sports such as soccer and lacrosse. The idea is pretty simple, the stronger your neck is, the more stable it will keep your head, and thus brain, even during a collision.
Finally there is research supporting this assumption, and as Time says, “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.”
During two academic years, from fall 2010 to spring 2012, athletic trainers collected measurements oof head cicumference, neck circumference, neck length, and four measurements of neck strength, including extension, flexion, right lateral and left lateral. Over 6,700 athletes participated coming from three sports with competitive boys and girls teams: soccer, lacrosse, and basketball.
The results were bad news for those with small necks combined with big heads. Even after adjusting for gender and rates of concussions in different sports, neck strength was a significant predictor of traumatic brain injuries. For every one pound increase in neck strength, chances of traumatic brain injury were lessened five-percent.
The study was lead by Dawn Comstock, associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, and presented the findings at the fourth annual Youth Sports Safety Summit in early February. While we still have a long way to go in preventing traumatic brain injury, it seems one of the best steps an athlete can take in staying concussion free is, as the Wu-Tang Clan once said, to “Protect Ya Neck.”