A recent study discussed why neck exercises are an important practice to help lessen the severity of or even avoid sports-related concussions.
Sports-related concussions happen when the head or neck experiences a strong force. These concussions can cause pathophysiological alterations in the brain, and damage to brain tissue is a long-term possibility. Sports-related concussions can lead to a variety of symptoms relating to cognition, emotion, and physicality. Sleep patterns can also be affected by sports-related concussions. These symptoms are often temporary and resolve within 10 to 14 days. However, these symptoms can last longer, resulting in limitations.
In an article published by the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, researchers review previous studies related to sports-related concussions to discuss the role of the cervical spine in reducing the risk of sports-related concussions. Specifically, they looked at sex (female vs. male), neck specificities, and neck exercises.
Stronger necks are less likely to experience detrimental concussions
The neck muscles are thought to be an important factor when it comes to sports-related concussions; findings showed that the stronger an athlete’s neck is, the least likely they are to experience detrimental sports-related concussions, if any at all. Neck size and neck posture are also important factors.
Findings revealed that precautionary actions should be taken before athletes start playing their sport. Athletic trainers and physical therapists should complete a neck examination on athletes before they begin playing. This would be to check for existing pain. The authors noted that reported neck pain before participating in sports activities was linked to a higher likelihood of sports-related concussion among young athletes.
Neck exercises are especially recommended for female athletes
With this being said, neck exercises are very important and are highly recommended for athletes. Neck exercises will help strengthen the neck, may increase neck size, and improve neck posture. An improvement in these areas will affect head acceleration positively. Therefore, neck exercises will prevent the severity of sports-related concussions, and may even help prevent them.
Findings showed that females are likelier to experience sports-related concussions in comparison to males. This is due to females having weaker neck strength and a smaller neck size than males. Females are likelier to experience symptoms more rigorously, and unfortunately, should expect a lengthier recovery time in comparison to males. Due to this, females are urged much more than males to practice neck exercises.
The authors note that future studies should be focused on the amount of force associated with sports-related concussions, as this is currently unknown. The differences between males and females in relation to sports-related concussions should also be further reviewed. With more research on this topic, additional pre-activity exercises (including neck exercises) can be possibly implemented to help reduce sports-related concussion risks.
Written by Laura Laroche, HBASc, Medical Writer
- Athletes should build neck strength to avoid concussions, Rutgers researchers recommend. 2019, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/ru-asb011619.php, assessed 31 Jan. 2019.
- Streifer, Michael, BA., et al. “The Potential Role of the Cervical Spine in Sports-Related Concussion: Clinical Perspectives and Considerations for Risk Reduction”. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2019. 1-22. Online.