Nick Veronica explores how neck strengthening exercises can help prevent concussions:
Through Heads Up Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, the athletes in the program are provided free neurocognitive baseline testing and a neck strengthening kit.
Most parents and athletes who participated in the first event understood the basics: Baseline testing is a measure of cognitive function taken when the athlete is healthy to be used as a reference point if a brain injury is ever suspected. Neck strengthening means stronger muscles, which equal more resistance, which can mean less jarring of the head.
Skeptics were reassured by trainers at the event who offered data from a study presented in February at the Youth Sports Safety Summit, which found that the odds of concussion fell by 5 percent with every pound of neck strength increase.
If you want to read a good description of what exactly happens inside the concussed brain, Veronica delivers the goods:
The brain is separated from the skull by a three-layered tissue called the meninges, which is not more than a few millimeters thick. It cushions the brain in daily activity but can only do so much in collisions.
“Because there is that layer of meninges, what happens is the brain moves like an egg yolk in an eggshell would,” UPMC neuropsychologist Jonathan French said. “That causes the neurons inside the brain to stretch out just a tiny bit.”
That stretching of the neurons is what leads to the chemical reactions, he said.
“When they do, potassium starts to leak out of the cell, calcium starts to leak inside the cell, and when that happens, it causes this ‘neurometabolic storm,’ we say. What that really leads to is an energy crisis. The brain needs more energy to do things … [but] the brain is starving of energy.
“So concussions are more neurometabolic rather than structural. Structural would be a big bleed inside the brain … this is more of the neurons stretching out causing the brain not to function as efficiently.”
Read more about concussions on The PediaBlog here.
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