Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Study Spotlight(s): Neck Strength and Concussions

Concussions are one of the hottest topics in sports medicine right now and how they long term effects of them might be worst than we thought.  There have been lots of ideas on how to make things safer, prevention protocols, new testing and also rule changes to help protect the athletes that are at risk.  In this Study Spotlight we take a look at neck strengthening.  We changed up the format a little bit for this one so make sure you check out the entire thing.

What They Did:
1). In this study they looked at static neck strength and by training in that static/isometric state could they reduce head accelerations and in turn reduce head trauma after getting hit.  In this case it was specifically with youth hockey.

2). This article didn't train any high school athletes with neck strengthening but tested them in neck strength and size and then tracked how many concussions were sustained during their activity.

What They Found:
1). This study found that in these youth hockey players training the neck muscles in a static or isometric fashion doesn't help when controlling the severity of head impact sustained by these players.

2). What they found was significant in that neck strength and neck circumference was a predictor of concussion risk.  For every one pound increase in neck strength, odds of concussion decreased by 5%.  

What It All Means:
There is a reason we shared two different articles that seem to say the opposite thing (as this happens a lot of times during research).  One study showed that a certain type of strength training wasn't really effective in reducing concussion risk an that might lead one to believe that we should write it of and then not use it.  Seems logical.  The other study showed that just looking at neck strength and circumference was a significant predictor of concussion risk. So then we should train the neck right?  Again, logical.

This can be the hard part about scientific research, confounding answers (and these happen for all kinds of reasons).  So what is someone to do?  This is where 'clinical reasoning', 'the art of coaching/training' and any other phrase you want to come up with plays a role.  You have to look at the whole of it, decide what you believe in and then make sure it makes sense.

Now back to concussions.  Training neck strength is something that could easily be brought into your training routine and not take much time or take a huge toll on your body.  For those several minutes you spend a week to get your neck stronger and the possibility to reduce concussions start at 5% makes it seem very worth while.  I would say it is a cheap and worthwhile investment to add to your program to reduce the risks of future concussion.   Other takeaway, don't just jump into believing everything you read.

1) Does cervical muscle strength in youth ice hockey players affect head impact biomechanics
Jason P. Mihalik
Clin J Sport Med Volume 21, Number 5, Sept. 2011

2) Neck strength: a protective factor reducing risk for concussion in high school sports.
Collins, CL.
J Prim Prev. 2014 Oct; 35(5): 309-19
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