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Neck training could be key to concussion issues

James Ihedigbo AP

NFL players can’t strap their brains to a weight machine to help them avoid concussion problems. But some strength coaches are advocating more emphasis on neck strength to help limit the damage and speed recovery.

Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com talked to several strength coaches, who think that adding strength to the body part that holds the head up can be a key to reducing the impact of concussions.

“We probably put more emphasis on the neck because of the concussion aspect that now is part of our daily life,” Ravens strength coach Bob Rogucki said. “We want to minimize [the chances] and hopefully prevent, but you may not ever prevent it. The chance is always going to be there.

“If you can minimize and get them back on the field quickly, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Last year, the Ravens had three players — wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Bernard Pierce and tight end Dennis Pitta — suffer concussions during the season, and all three passed the league’s protocols and played the next week.

While not everyone is ready to attribute that to the added emphasis Rogucki puts on neck strengthening, it only makes common sense that a stronger base will prevent the head from whipping as violently when hit.

Of course, starting such programs earlier might help, as some coaches bemoan the lack of training college players get for their necks before the enter the league. Part of that’s natural, as players are drawn to exercises with immediate and tangible (i.e. visible) results.

“Players are going to attack the front [of their bodies]. They’re not going to attack the back because they can’t see it,” Rogucki said. “They look in the mirror and say, ‘I look pretty good. I’m going down to the beach.’ They don’t understand that in football it’s really the backside of the body that’s involved in a lot of activities of the game.

“I tell our guys we don’t care as much about bench [press] and some other exercises. It’s important that they can walk off the field without their head being strapped down to a [stretcher].”

Whether it’s a cure-all doesn’t matter, because as we learn more and more about the impact of concussions, anything that can be done to lessen their damage should be fully explored and given a chance to work.

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19 Responses to “Neck training could be key to concussion issues”
  1. marvin120 says: Jul 3, 2013 3:10 PM

    Every Ravens player who suffered a concussion played the next week, yet guys like Titans LB Colin McCarthy miss 4 games. One of two things is true: either Baltimore’s medical staff is reckless, or the Colin McCarthys/Clint Sessions/Laurent Robinsons of the world just aren’t very tough. No idea which one it is

  2. thestrategyexpert says: Jul 3, 2013 3:14 PM

    Sounds like time spent towards safety and long-term health and at the detriment of winning football games in the present. So what team wants to be the safest, and what team wants to win the most? I’d like to see the cost/benefit analysis on implementing this training program.

    Interesting idea, but where’s the presentation that shows how it makes sense for these very small number of events and circumstances that the training can actually produce a noticeable benefit?

    Until then I would hope the coaches of my team would tell players to do the neck training at home on their personal time if they think it’s important, but when you are on the clock here we are focusing more on the high-yield choices in terms of maximizing our winning potential. That’s what we do on THIS team. And many of our players haven’t perfected their game in terms of their on-field skills and playmaking. There’s much more important things to focus on because we happen to be WAY behind the competitive standards that we should be at.

    So for the Lions, these guys need to figure out how to get the base job done first, let them complete that task for once in their lives, and then work towards extra credit if you can do the first part first that is. Now get to work and make it happen and don’t go home until you finish the job this time!!!!

  3. crimepedrankings says: Jul 3, 2013 3:18 PM

    PhD in biomechanics here – the idea that strengthening the neck is going to reduce concussions has no basis in scientific findings. In fact, actively contracting neck muscles during collisions is going to increase impact forces to the head, while relaxing the muscles will decrease impact forces, but increase musculotendon injuries.

  4. keylimelight says: Jul 3, 2013 3:22 PM

    How do they know that having stronger neck muscles won’t actually make the concussion problem worse?

  5. cpo187 says: Jul 3, 2013 3:24 PM

    Maybe Clinton Portis can just teach the guys how to play through the pain.

    Weird that when you get a concusion in football, you sit out the rest of that game and maybe 1 or 2 more. A concussion in Baseball and the guy is out for about half the season or more. P.S. I don’t have a PhD in anything.

  6. rgledz says: Jul 3, 2013 3:25 PM

    Masters degree in engineering here…..OK, I’m just mocking the douchy guy who felt the need to drop his PhD on us….anyway, not all concussions are the same, doctor. A lot of them can be attributed to the whiplash effect, which can be reduced by strengthening the neck muscles. I don’t think this is that far fetched.

  7. jda129 says: Jul 3, 2013 3:26 PM

    I just read about an Italian scientist who claims if given $30 million he can successfully transplant human heads within two years. Maybe he’s found a new angle to dealing with concussions? But I do pity the poor equipment manager who has to lug around the duffle full of extra heads.

  8. hendeeze says: Jul 3, 2013 3:43 PM

    Well then, they should employ Takeo Spikes and check his past history. TKO has the biggest neck in the NFL!

  9. hedleykow says: Jul 3, 2013 4:02 PM

    Helmet design using electromagnetics to create a “safe space” between the inner surfaces of the helmet and a players head will be seen in the next generation of football helmets. The most difficult engineering obstacle to date is trying to keep the helmet from clamping tight to the steel plate in Gronk’s head.

  10. mdd913 says: Jul 3, 2013 4:06 PM

    Roman Harper’s neck makes Takeo Spikes’ neck look like Merton Hanks’ neck.

    True story.

  11. anicra says: Jul 3, 2013 4:13 PM

    or properly fit helmets might help too. You can clearly see the many NFL player wear helmets far far too loose.

  12. dartwick says: Jul 3, 2013 4:26 PM

    Well developed neck muscles giving a degree of protection against concussions is not new.

  13. notoriousjebus says: Jul 3, 2013 4:29 PM

    Maybe a good first step would be replacing those hard shell battering rams the NFL calls helmets with something designed more to protect the head and brain. Or would that cut too much into the NFL’s commemorative helmet sales?

  14. ColtsWinColtsWin!! says: Jul 3, 2013 4:35 PM

    Why can’t the helmets be made of foam? Why do they have to have the hardshell, its ridiculous, pay me a million and lets move on.

  15. apmn says: Jul 3, 2013 4:57 PM

    What is so douchey about a guy telling us that he has a PhD in biomechanics when commenting on an issue that involves bio-freakin-mechanics?

  16. jdkword says: Jul 3, 2013 5:05 PM

    I would think the best design would be one that is 3-layer with exterior foam (to help minimize initial shock) with hard plastic middle layer (to provide overall integrity and help prevent transfer of force) and foam interior (to protect head from hard plastic piece). Does this make sense?

  17. strengthcoach2 says: Jul 3, 2013 5:22 PM

    There is a lot of research that shows that a stronger neck helps reduce impact velocity and thus reduces concussion degree. (Viano, Casson and Pellman have published a 16 part series on concussions for the NFL). Furthermore, there is new research and discoveries showing how various levels of fascia can secure musculature throughout the body providing support for the head during impact velocity.
    In fact, a stronger neck will provide better support for traumatic brain injury than a thicker helmet……

  18. lovefootball4life says: Jul 3, 2013 7:40 PM

    While I respect a PhD in biomechanics, saying “there is no basis in scientific findings” it sort of goes against the article which says explicitly:

    “there is scientific research that shows a muscular neck likely defuses the potentially damaging forces sometimes generated when a player is hit in the head.”

    So maybe the 3rd annual Football Strength Clinic attended by NFL staff is onto something….?

  19. aprilwalker2013 says: Jul 3, 2013 8:04 PM

    I had a traumatic brain injury 11 yrs ago. Have had couple concussions since as I’m now very easy to have one due to TBI. Have had many neck problems since also. Last year had to have a fusion in my neck. Guess what I’m trying to say is.. This sounds like a good idea to me! Seems like the neck is hurt when head is. Which I had known this after my injury. Maybe it could’ve prevented my neck surgery

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