Does neck strength affect your risk of concussions?

Proper technique and well-fitted equipment are two of the most important factors in concussion prevention. But new research has surged that neck strength may have an impact in preventing head injuries as well. The theory behind this is that stronger neck muscles will help cushion against and decrease the linear and rotational forces that cause concussions.

In a study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and the Colorado School of Public Health (Collins, 2014), researchers found that the odds of concussion decreased by 5 percent for every one-pound increase in aggregate neck strength.

Adopting a neck-strengthening program is an inexpensive, easily accessible way to help prevent against concussions. Add these three strengthening exercises to your current resistance training:

  • Shoulder shrugs can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells. Hold an appropriate amount of weight in either hand with arms extended at your sides. Raise your shoulders and then slowly relax to starting position.
  • Dumbbell press – raise your arms so that your elbows are level with the shoulders, flexed at a 90-degree angle. From this point, raise the dumbbell towards the ceiling with straightening your elbows. Then return to the starting position.
  • Resistance neck exercises can be performed on a machine that specifically helps strengthen the neck muscles. There are also simple resistance exercises that can be done without equipment.
    • Lateral, forward, backward exercises
      • Place your right hand on the right side of your head and flex the muscles of your neck. Try resisting your right ear against your hand to move your head down to your shoulder (but the head doesn’t actually move).
      • Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then switch sides. Ty this with the front and back of the head as well.
    • Rotational exercises
      • Place your hand against the side of the forehead and try to rotate the head towards the right or left, as if you’re nodding “no.” Resist the motion with your hand so there is no actual movement of the head.
      • Try this active resistance for about 5 to 10 seconds and then repeat in the other direction.