The words concussion and football are almost synonymous with each other in that when one is mentioned often the other is thought about. Playing sports especially contact sports will increase your chances of getting concussions. Most people when they think of concussions imagine a big guy wearing a football helmet or a boxer. Women are not generally pictured with concussions, but their chances of getting one are high. Looking at the differences of a neck of a football player and that of a ballerina the neck widths are vastly different. Which do you think would sustain less of an injury? Which neck would you prefer to have in case of injury? The larger more muscular neck? That seems to be safer and better. The reasoning is that there are more muscles and higher muscular with a football player's neck then a ballerina’s. The muscles help to slow down any type of acceleration and deceleration forces that can cause concussions. Examples of acceleration and deceleration forces are any type of whiplash injury such as those sustained in a motor vehicle collision, fall, blunt force trauma. Therefore one's chances of surviving a whiplash injury or acceleration deceleration greatly improve with more musculature around the neck and shoulders and one's chances of sustaining a concussion decrease.
The data is limited, but a study of professional rugby players found that neck injuries did go down from one season to the next after the team participated in a 26 week neck training program1. The rugby team focused mainly on isometric exercise which helps the neck’s ability to produce stiffness and stop motion that will help reduce the acceleration injury.
Women in general have decreased neck strength and less well developed cervical and shoulder musculature therefore there is a decreased ability to absorb mechanical forces like acceleration & deceleration. Perhaps strengthening the neck may help with these things, but if the neck is not on straight that is a problem. The foundational shift when the neck is slightly misaligned due to an injury like a whiplash from a motor vehicle collision, a sports injury or even a fall will hinder it from moving, healing and functioning properly.
Strengthening a neck that is misaligned will not help the forces to be absorbed correctly. For example if the left side of your neck is working harder to hold your head up and support your body more than the right side the muscles will be unequal. More developed on the left side then the right side, therefore strengthening the muscles unevenly which won’t help to prevent the deceleration of concussive forces going into the head in a traumatic setting such as a whiplash from a motor vehicle collision, fall or sports injury.
A Structural Chiropractor can assess the upper neck, the foundation of the spine and brain with a thorough examination and structural radiographs and if that is misaligned due to a fall, motor vehicle collision or sports injury they can help to correct it back into alignment with specific structural adjustments. Once the spine has been corrected, strengthening exercises will help forces that would be traumatic to the brain to be absorbed and dispersed. One of our favorite exercises is to gently push your head back into the headrest when driving. This strengthens the muscles in the back of the neck and helps with any Anterior Head Syndrome (head forward of the shoulders). Anterior Head Syndrome is a major focus of Structural Chiropractors as it can lead to secondary issues like headaches, sleep problems and hormonal disturbances.
- Naish et al. J Sports Science Medicine. 2013 Sep; 12(3): 542–550.