Prepare for Impact

September 20, 2018

When athletes see a head impact coming, the response is often to tense up their neck muscles in preparation for the hit. A recently published study from Stanford University suggests that this might not help avoid concussion. Rather, head position might be a bigger determining factor.

According to ScienceDaily, the study used computer modeling to estimate higher-force impacts that could lead to concussion.

“We found it really interesting that your soft tissue—muscles, ligaments, and tendons—isn’t doing much to dictate how your head is rotating immediately after an impact,” Michael Fanton, PhD Candidate in Bioengineering at Stanford and the study’s lead author, said. “Whereas even a few degrees of change in your head-neck angle can really alter how much your head is rotated and therefore, probably, your risk of concussion.”

In an earlier study, research participants’ heads were tilted backward with miniature weights attached. Next, the participants’ head movements were monitored as they tensed or relaxed their necks. Those measurements were used to develop a computer model that illustrated how the head moves.

Then, the research team replicated low- and high-impact forces in the computer model. Although tense neck muscles were associated with a slight reduction in head acceleration in the low-impact forces, they didn’t seem to make a difference for higher-impact forces. In other words, when involved with a hard and fast impact, it didn’t seem to matter if neck muscles were tense.

“Originally, we thought your neck muscles could affect head acceleration and we wanted to figure out if that offered another strategy for reducing brain injury,” Fanton said. “It was surprising that in these shorter-duration impacts, the neck muscles are not doing a whole lot.”

The research team also analyzed front-to-back acceleration as it relates to head and neck positioning. The results showed that the head’s positioning can make a difference for concussion risk—with the area that is hit also affecting the head’s rotation.

The researchers expect this work may be helpful as new protective equipment is developed in a number of sports. Although head and neck positioning won’t be a simple solution to prevent injuries such as concussion, it may be helpful.

“Discovering how sensitive the head is to slight changes in positioning has implications on design of helmets and other protective equipment,” David Camarillo, PhD, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering at Stanford, said. “For example, could the facemask in football be offering a lever arm that adds to the rotation of the head and therefore risk of concussion? Are downhill mountain bike helmets protecting the chin at the cost of the brain? We hope to use this model we have developed to determine better design geometry of helmets and potentially for input to coaching on how to brace for impact.”

SEARCH for Products
SEARCH for Vendors

A Rebounder With Versatility

Medicine ball exercises are a staple of many workout routines. Whether the goal is performance enhancement by strengthening the core or helping an athlete rehab from an injury, medicine balls are versatile piece of equipment that can get the job done. But most strength coaches and athletic trainers don’t have enough time available to catch … CLICK TO READ MORE...

Author and Strength Coach Mike Mejia Praises VersaClimber

“Over the course of the past twenty years I’ve trained hundreds of clients that run the gamut from average Joe’s to professional athletes and in all that time, I’ve never come across a cardio piece that comes anywhere near the Versa Climber!” says Mike Mejia M.S., CSCS, author of The Men’s Heath Better Body Blueprint, … CLICK TO READ MORE...

Indoor Pool Surface Solution

Mateflex has indoor pool surfacing that is safer and more enjoyable to walk on than concrete. Mateflex offers perforated tiles to allow water to drain through that can cover up old, unsightly concrete or just spruce up a new area with a colorful design. The interlocking tiles dry quickly while keeping your feet out of … CLICK TO READ MORE...

The Evolution of the Lifting Platform

The days of the above ground weightlifting platform may be a thing of the past. More and more high schools, colleges, and professional strength and conditioning facilities who are either building a new facility or renovating an existing facility are going away from the traditional above ground lifting platform and choosing the inlaid platform, which … CLICK TO READ MORE...

Teaching Principles: Neck Rotation

Coach Bill ‘Jake’ Jacobs goes back to the basic teaching principles with Neck Rotation. View his demonstration.  CLICK TO READ MORE...

VIEW MORE ARTICLES