Concussions remain a hot-button topic in professional sports these days, but as the fall season starts up, many younger athletes are starting football, soccer, volleyball, and other sports where concussions occur at a fairly high rate. Football and soccer are the biggest offenders, but concussions occur in any sport where a player can collide with another person or object. Concussions are serious medical events, no matter how minor, and to some degree they can be prevented in sport.
Concussions are typically caused by sudden and significant changes in head position, typically from contact to the body or head. This causes the brain to “bounce” inside the skull, often damaging some of the brain tissue. It should go without saying that this is not a good thing.
Concussions are tricky, and they are going to happen with sports, but you can take steps to reduce your risk. Inquisitive readers may be wondering how exactly you can prevent the head from being flung around in a sport like football. With something like a blindside hit, it’s not easy (or likely) that someone can prevent that kind of force through their head. With any sort of anticipated contact, however, there are some ways to help make sure that the head and neck are kept relatively stable and safe.
In soccer, players are (or should be) taught to keep their eyes open when performing a header, which is when the player hits the ball with their head intentionally. Part of the reason is that you can direct the ball where you need to. Another reason, which isn’t usually discussed, is that keeping your eyes open helps to keep the muscles in your neck engaged, making your neck more rigid and stable, which protects your head from flopping around like a punching bag.
The application of this should be fairly clear: any time you’re is anticipating contact to the chest or head, keep your eyes open as long as safely possible. To borrow a more common phrase, keep your eyes on the ball! Obviously this isn’t a fail safe method, but eye fixation does certainly help reduce your chances of head/neck injury, including concussions. To practice this, just practice fixation during normal practices with the team, or while working on any drills you have that normally require contact (headers, tackles, etc.).
Outside of practicing eye fixation, it would also be a good idea to work on your neck strength. Cervical isometrics (pictured here) can be effective at improving strength in your neck muscles. Make sure that you’re pushing gently; there’s little value in pressing hard in this instance.
Working on eye fixation and neck strengthening can be effective at reducing one’s risk for concussion. If you have trouble with these, see a physical therapist. Physical therapists are one of the primary medical staff in concussion management and prevention and can get you set on the right path.
Got questions? Feel limited in what you’re able to do? The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to be limitless.
***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice. Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.
- Collins CL, Fletcher EN, Fields SK, Kluchurosky L, Rohrkemper MK, Comstock RD, Cantu RC. Neck strength: a protective factor reducing risk for concussion in high school sports. J Prim Prev. 2014 Oct;35(5):309-19. doi: 10.1007/s10935-014-0355-2. PubMed PMID: 24930131.