Strengthening Neck Muscles Helps Prevent Concussion

Dr. Robert Cantu talks about ways kids can use simple resistance exercises to strengthen their neck muscles, which in turn helps them be less vulnerable to concussion.

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[Dr. Robert Cantu] The neck moves in basically three planes. It flexes and extends, it rotates left and right, and then it tilts left and right. And you can do those three motions against a resistance, such as your own hand. The resistance can be provided by bands. The resistance can be provided, if you have it properly fitted, by Velcro straps where you actually have a D-ring in them that you're pulling against with a particular activity so you can actually set it up to be a certain amount of weight that you know what it is that you're doing your repetitions against. What you want to seek out is something that you can do 12 to 15 repetitions of and then when you can get up to easily do three sets of 15 reps then slightly increase the resistance. Well, if not daily, it should be every other day, I believe, and there are machines in addition to what I described that have been designed to strengthen the neck muscles; they can be used as well. Well in youth sports the machines are not going to be the answer. And in youth sports the most practical solution is probably using your own hand as the resistance and/or the buddy system. If you have kids and they want to use a football helmet, then I suggest that D-rings be affixed just above the ear hole on the left and right side, front and back, and on the center of the face mask. And then you hook your resistance whether it be a spring scale, whether it be a band, or whatever you're using for your resistance into the ring and then you go the opposite direction of wherever you're pulling on it. Well there's just the one paper with Christy Collins and Dawn Comstock so far in the literature where it's actually shown, and in that particular study of high school athletes in a variety of sports those with the strongest necks had the least amount of concussion. Those with the weakest necks had the highest amount of concussion.
Posted on BrainLine August 30, 2013.

Produced by Noel Gunther and Erica Queen, BrainLine.

About the author: Robert Cantu, MD

Robert Cantu, MD is chief of Neurosurgery Service, chairman Department of Surgery, and director of Sports Medicine, Emerson Hospital; clinical professor, Department of Neurosurgery, and co-director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Robert Cantu