Jan 29, 2015
All in the Neck

Studies have shown that when an individual senses a collision with someone or something, they tense up. Research presented on Wednesday evening by Julianne Schmidt, PhD, ATC, Assistant Professor of the Exercise Science Program at the University of Georgia, suggests that this reaction may serve as the basis for new initiatives in concussion prevention.

In her minicourse entitled, “Concussion Prevention: The Role of the Cervical Musculature and Collision Anticipation,” Schmidt described the basic tenet behind this theory: If athletes can see a collision coming, they can anticipate it and brace their cervical musculature. By linking the head to the thorax through the cervical musculature, the force of impact is spread over a larger area, which decreases the head’s velocity and, theoretically, head impact severity.

One of the biggest takeaways from Schmidt’s findings is that neck strength and neck stiffness are two different things. Neck strength is important but does not necessarily ensure that an athlete has a decreased risk of experiencing moderate or severe heat impact severity. Rather, neck stiffness–which is a composite of strength and neuromuscular response–has shown to be more effective at reducing this force.

Schmidt says we are on the verge of good evidence for concussion prevention initiatives incorporating the cervical musculature. In the meantime, she provided a sample of her own program design, which she uses with athletes at Georgia. The warm-up is as follows:
Neck Circles–15 clockwise, 15 counterclockwise
Manual Neck Isometric Resistance–flexion, extension, lateral flexion
Lying flexion, extension

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