Reducing Concussion Risk in 2017

February 13, 2017

by Mike Jolly

Concussions are a problem that are not going away anytime soon. As more responsibility is being put on coaches to better protect their athletes, implementing programs that get results is critical. Neck Training is a preventative measure that is often either underutilized or done inefficiently. When done properly it can have a significant impact on the number of concussions you see.

Much of the focus around the concussion problem to this point has been on equipment upgrades, proper tackling techniques, rule changes and post-concussion protocols. These are all important parts of the solution but the neck is the head’s natural shock absorber and the body’s only built in defense mechanism to dissipate concussive forces.

After years of seeing the long-term damage concussions had on the lives of my UCLA teammates and the unknown impact on kids I coached at the high school and college level, I dug into the problem and learned more about the growing body of research linking neck strength to reduced concussion risk.

Supporting Research
In 2014, the Journal of Primary Prevention published a study that tracked 6700 high school students (boys and girls) over a 2.5 year period. They determined that for every one pound increase in neck strength, odds of getting concussed dropped by 5%.
Dr. Robert Cantu, one of the country’s leading neurologists and senior advisor on the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, has said that “neck exercises can help prevent more concussions than any product on the market.”

Traditional Neck Strengthening
You may be familiar with the traditional approaches to building neck strength, ranging from manual resistance to 4-way neck machines.

Manual (partner) resistance is difficult to measure progress due to its subjective nature. It’s also hard to enforce standards when performed via player on player -- those guys are more interested in talking about their weekend plans than they are on training each others’ neck.

4-way neck machines (plate loaded or cable pulley) are effective at building mass but lack functionality as they move the neck strictly on two linear planes (front to back and side to side). It is not uncommon to see diminished rotational flexibility and range of motion among athletes that have trained for years using this method.

There are various types of head harnesses that fall in between the two more common modalities. However, many of them are flimsy, potentially dangerous or fall short of the desired result.

A New Way to Train the Neck
The Iron Neck is a neck training tool that enables athletes across all sports to increase strength, flexibility and range of motion, three keys to better defending against concussive forces and rehabilitating previous injuries. By giving your head and neck complete freedom to move in every direction, while applying both horizontal and rotational resistance, the neck can be trained to react against forces from every possible direction.

Over the past four years, The Iron Neck has been implemented by over 170 NFL, NCAA, and high school football teams, and incorporated into training programs for sports ranging from soccer and lacrosse to MMA and motor sports. It is also being used for rehabilitation purposes by teams trainers and physical therapists.

Impact at the High School Level
Ultimately, effective neck training is going to have the largest impact on society when it is implemented at a younger age. The brain isn’t fully developed until age 25, leaving high school kids more vulnerable to long term brain injuries. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics showed that more than 66% of concussions amongst football players age 5 to 23 were sustained from high school football -- 12% in youth sports and 22% in college.

This past year, Arlington ISD built six new training facilities and had planned to install four 4-way neck machines at each school. After seeing how much more effective and efficient the Iron Neck was, they turned 24 4-way neck machines into 84 Iron Necks.

Reducing concussion risk in athletes requires many things from the many people involved: coaches, athletes, officials and doctors. Implementing a consistent and measurable neck training program is a foundational component to any effective concussion management program and can better prepare your athletes to protect themselves from concussive forces.

Mike Jolly (NASM, ACE) invented the Iron Neck years after playing football at UCLA. He has coached high school and college football in the greater Los Angeles area. As a certified strength coach, he has helped hundreds of athletes achieve their fitness goals and lower their risk of concussion.

For more information please visit
or call 310-776-0621

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