The day after the Madison (Ohio) Blue Streaks football season ended in 2012, fullback Ben Bruening woke up at 5 a.m. and hit the weight room.
He wanted to get faster and stronger for next season to help his team make the state playoffs.
The early morning workouts helped Bruening improve his strength and speed, and his team made it to the post-season, too.
The workouts may have also saved Bruening's life.
During a Week 9 match-up, Bruening was the lead blocker on a running play when he collided head-to-head with the opposing defender from Lakeside High School.
Bruening struggled to his feet and managed to walk to the sidelines. But it was evident to the training staff that he had suffered a concussion, and when he started to experience muscle spasms in his neck, he was taken to a local medical facility for further examination.
The test results left Bruening and his family in shock.
From the original story, which appeared on Cleveland.com:
"The CAT scan results showed Ben would not be removing the collar to go home. He would have to be airlifted to Cleveland.
"His C1, C7 and T1 vertebrae were fractured. His C2 was dislocated, and a ligament in his neck was torn. The C1 vertebra is the most important one. It's what holds up your head. It's the same vertebra that fractured in Ben's neck a few seconds after he lowered his head against Lakeside's Meeks."
Bruening was fitted with a stabilizing halo, which restricted his head and neck movement, but the reason he was able to walk away from a potentially serious or even fatal injury: doctors and nurses believe it was because of the strength of Bruening's neck, the strength he had developed during his off-season workouts.
The focus on reducing the risk of concussions in football has not only changed the way the game is played—see the NFL's Heads Up Tackling initiative—it has also led performance coaches and players to incorporate more neck and shoulder training into their off-season programs.
Bryan McCall, director of the Michael Johnson Performance Training Center at SPIRE Institute (Geneva, Ohio), says, "When you collide with an opponent, if your neck is weak, the full energy of the blow transfers to your brain. But if your neck is strong, it will stay rigid and protect your head to a greater extent from the force of the collision." (Read McCall's article, "Protect Your Brain With This Neck Workout.")
Neck exercises are not common in gym routines, but there are plenty of quick exercises you can do to strengthen your neck. You might just prevent a concussion or other life threatening injury, like Bruening's.
Read more about how to build neck strength and avoid injury:
- Develop Neck Strength to Prevent Head and Neck Injuries
- Train Your Neck With These Warm-ups
- Build Neck and Shoulder Strength to Stay Healthy for Football
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock