|Common symptoms include: visible wounds, fractures, swelling, facial bruising, altered state of consciousness, bleeding, stiff neck|
New research shows that stronger necks may lead to safer heads.
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, the findings showed that 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%.
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.
Concussions are the most common type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). They can occur as a result of a motor vehicle accident as well as various sports. Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and not everyone may be aware that they have experienced a concussion when in fact they have.
As mentioned above, the causes of concussion can be varied. Most often, people relate a concussion to loss of consciousness. However, this is not necessarily the case. Concussions are often the result of a direct blow to the head, but can also be caused by a violent force or shaking in the upper body. For example, whiplash of the neck may result in concussion because the excess force applied to the body. Concussions may also be experienced after a large tackle that causes an unnatural jolt of the upper body. The brain sits in a pool of cerebrospinal fluid. It can move within your skull (cool, huh?). So, basically anything that projects a strong force onto the skull or nearby structures (e.g. the spine) can cause a concussion.
What’s actually happening?
During the initial blow, the brain bumps into the bony skull. This may not sound like much, but considering how many complex and intricate structures are in your brain (and there are a lot!), damage can be done. Concussions are a hot topic for research these days, and there is still much to learn. It is believed that the bumping of the brain against the skull disrupts important neural connections (kind of like your brain is short-circuiting).
Symptoms of concussion are many and varied, ranging from complete loss of consciousness to a mild headache. Symptoms may also include: drowsiness, insomnia, difficulty concentrating or remembering, an abrupt change in personality/character, feeling more emotional, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, feeling like you’re in a fog, sensitivity to light and noise and loss of balance or coordination. These may be very mild, or very severe. The SCAT tool nicely outlines these symptoms as well as testing that can be done for concussion (read here).
I think I have a concussion, now what?
If you’ve recently experienced a force to the head or upper body and are feeling any of the above symptoms, you should go to the doctor to have these assessed and properly diagnosed. Early intervention is important so you can start the recovery process. Typically, it is recommended that you are at complete mental and physical rest for 24 hours (no exercise, no physical activity, no reading and definitely no screen time). The blue light from your phone or computer screen can aggravate your symptoms if you have a concussion. It is also recommended that you avoid caffeine and alcohol and that you have somebody check in on you every few hours while you are sleeping to make sure other more serious conditions are not present (e.g. brain bleeding). After this first 24 hours, you may introduce light activity (such as walking or slow pedaling on a stationary bike). You must experience no symptoms for another 24 hours. If symptoms are still present, you will need to return to the previous stage. Each stage is outlined below. There is a minimum of 5 days to return to play, with a doctor’s assessment required prior to returning to contact sports.