Can Neck Strength Reduce Concussions in Women's Soccer? | STACK 4W
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Can Neck Strength Reduce Concussions in Women's Soccer?

April 9, 2014

Must See Soccer Videos

Women's soccer ranks second only to football in the number of reported concussions.[1] In the past, concussion prevention took a back seat to treatment. But recent data from leading experts suggests that neck strengthening may actually have a role in preventing (or lessening the severity of) concussions on the field.

RELATED: Concussions Are an Epidemic in Women's Sports Too

Neck size and strength predict brain injury

At the 2013 Youth Sports Safety Summit, Dawn Comstock, an epidemiology professor at the Colorado School of Public Health, unveiled new data supporting the idea that concussion risk is inversely related to neck strength. The study compared neck length, neck circumference, and measurements of neck strength in flexion, extension, and lateral rotation among 6,704 male and female athletes engaged in three sports (soccer, lacrosse, and basketball). Measurements were taken before and during the season, and athletic trainers reported the data.

Comstock's results showed that athletes diagnosed with concussions had much smaller necks and less strength overall than those who did not. The study found that for every one-pound increase in neck strength, the chances of sustaining head trauma fell by 5 percent.[2]

Dr. Bob Cantu, M.D., a renowned neurosurgeon and leading authority on concussions, said in an NBC interview with Kate Snow that athletes with weak necks are much more susceptible to head trauma. He added, "Girls as a group have far weaker necks. That same force delivered to a girl's head spins the head much more because of the weak neck than it does to the guys."[3]

In an interview with Athletic Business, Comstock said the more the head spins, the more chance of concussion. "As the head rocks back and forth, it's also twisting a little on the brain stem, and it's those accelerative and rotational forces as the brain is impacting inside the skull that are really what's causing these concussions."[4]

Preventing concussions with neck strengthening

According to Dr. Cantu, female soccer players should participate in daily neck strengthening exercises. Much more research is needed, however, to determine what exercise protocols would work best. Currently, Dr. Cantu recommends basic isometric exercises applying resistance to the head with one hand for a few seconds in varying ranges of motion, for 10 repetitions for multiple sets.[5]

RELATED: Protect Your Brain With This Neck Workout

Many are already doing it

Thanks to the new data, many organizations are implementing their own neck-strengthening programs. Syracuse University requires its football players to take baseline circumference measurements of their necks and undergo a rigorous neck strengthening program.[6] In the private sector, businesses such as Compete Sports Performance & Rehab (Lake Forest, Calf.) are using devices like the Halo to strengthen their athletes' necks. The Halo is a cable attachment designed to apply resistance to an athlete's neck in various ranges of motion that mimic positions the head would be in during brain trauma.

Management and prevention

Although the recent research is only preliminary, the results portend exciting news. For years, clinicians have only been able to treat, not prevent, concussions. Now with new data, clinicians and researchers will hopefully be able to turn the focus on concussions to prevention, and cut down on the number of concussions among women soccer players and other high-risk groups.

Read more:

References

[1] Marar, Mallika, BS McIlvain, Natalie, JD, PhD Fields, Sarah, Ph D.Comstock, Dawn, "Epidemiology of Concussions Among High School Athletes in 20 Sports." AJSM PreView, published January 27, 2012.

[2] Gregory, Sean, "Neck Strength Predicts Concussion Risk, Study Says." Keeping Score, http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2013/02/21/study-neck-strength-predicts-concussion-risk/.

[3] Snow, Kate, "Contact Sport: Girls Soccer Sidelined By Concussions." Rock Center, http://www.nbcnews.com/video/rock-center/47364208#47364208.

[4] Steinbach, Paul. "Sports Injury Expert Dawn Comstock Talks Concussion Prevention." Athletic Business, N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2013.

[5] Snow, Kate, "Neck Strengthening Exercises Can Help Prevent Concussions, Doctors Say." Rock Center, http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/07/12108954-neck-strengthening-exercises-can-help-prevent-concussions-doctors-say.

[6] Cohen, Michael, "Syracuse tries to decrease risk of concussions by neck-strengthening." Sports Illustrated, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/football/ncaa/09/28/concussions-neck-strength-syracuse-eastern-michigan/.

Topics: SOCCER | CONCUSSION
Ben Torres
- Ben Torres is an athletic trainer at Compete Sports Performance & Rehab (Lake Forest, Calif.), where he provides sports rehabilitation services to youth, college and...
Ben Torres
- Ben Torres is an athletic trainer at Compete Sports Performance & Rehab (Lake Forest, Calif.), where he provides sports rehabilitation services to youth, college and...
Must See
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 4,233,791
Brandon Jennings: "Always Improve"
Views: 2,812,468
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 17,867,092

Featured Videos

Path to the Pros Episode 6: The Combine Views: 1,007
James Harden Resisted Euro-Step Views: 11,715
Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Views: 139,786
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Dwyane Wade Jumps Onto a 42" Box
Views: 10,738,584
Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,919,135
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 5,020,437
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,328,909
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,250

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

3 Causes of Recurring Hamstring Injuries

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

How to Train With Running Blisters

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

How to Bench Press With a Shoulder Injury

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know