Concussion Prevention Through Strength Training?

Concussions continue as a hot topic of concern for NFL teams and players.  Recently Kim Wood, former strength and conditioning coach for the Bengals, held a symposium in Cincinnati where the issue of concussion prevention took center stage.  “Legends of Strength” included Wood, 27-year NFL veteran Dan Riley and former University of Michigan strength coach Mike Gittleson.

The symposium included representatives from five NFL teams, as well as numerous colleges and high schools.  Neck strengthening techniques were taught, and some at the symposium believe they should be mandatory.

Wood emphasized neck strength during his time with the Bengals from 1975 to 2002 as a preventative measure to reduce the risk of concussions.

“I’m in favor of any preventative measures that players and teams can take to help fight concussions, but unfortunately, the research just doesn’t support neck strength as having a meaningful impact on concussions,” said clinical sports psychologist Dr. John Sullivan.  “This line of thinking is intuitive – it seems to make sense, but empirical data has led us to understand that it’s not a factor for prevention.”

The league has focused on rule changes, some controversial such as the so-called “Steelers Rule” on flagrant hits.  The league and individual teams have also been working to improve testing and ensuring that sufficient recovery periods are allowed before players are returned to the field.

Dr. Sullivan continued, “There is some research that shows that tensing of certain skeletal muscles around the neck and shoulders can be helpful, but in the real time speed of the game that type of prevention is not possible.  We need to focus on what we can control, including safety equipment and the biomechanics of hitting, central nervous system training, improved concussion detection, and proper recovery periods.”

For more information, see the ProPlayerInsiders series on concussions.

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