Currently within sport, there has been huge interest and debate surrounding the number of injury cases involving concussion. This is particularly prevalent within contact sports including; Rugby, American Football, Ice Hockey, Boxing, kickboxing, Wrestling and other martial art sports. Even a recently as a few months ago a blockbuster movie called ‘Concussion’ was released starring Will Smith depicting the rise in medical concern regarding this matter. TV shows such as ‘Ballers’ featured on HBO depict the effects on athletes retired from American football. The BBC have shown programme recently featuring John Beattie, former Scottish Rugby International and British & Irish Lion depicting the same risks and consequences featuring retired rugby players.
Many sporting bodies have put in place regulations now to try and manage these injuries. The Scottish Rugby Union or SRU and all other international rugby bodies now incorporate World Rugby’s ‘Concussion Protocol’. Many of these changes made in sport however are reactive rather than proactive. That is to say that they are aimed at dealing with these injuries once they have occurred and returning the player who has sustained the injury back to full activity safely rather than changes to prevent the injury occurring itself.
The NHS defines concussion as ‘the sudden but short-lived loss of mental function that occurs after a blow or other injury to the head’. Its symptoms included; loss of consciousness, memory loss and poor immediate recall, (such as not being able to remember what happened before or after the injury), persistent headaches since the injury, changes in behaviour, poor concentration, confusion, drowsiness, loss of balance or problems walking, vomiting since the injury & double vision amongst some others. Even from the brief list above one can see the severity of this type of injury and the impact it can have short term on the brain and body’s function. More and more evidence is coming forward following MRIs and Post Mortem examinations carried out on athletes in contact sports showing the long term effects on the brain due to repeated concussion and head injury. Concussion has been linked with development of Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia and reduced concentration and memory loss in later life.
As a keen Rugby fan, our Lead Physio Robert Rolston, has put thought into this matter and done some research. He noted that many head injuries as caused by impact when a player is not expecting a hit, for example being tackled from the side when he doesn’t see the tackler approach. As a result, the player is unaware and does not brace himself for the impact and so the head and neck are more mobile during the contact allowing head, and thus the brain, to be tossed around more during the initial hit. Doing some research, he found an interesting article by Collins et al. 2014 titled ‘Neck Strength: A protective Factor Reducing Risk of Concussion in High School Sports’. (This article can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24930131 ). This study found that neck strength was a significant predictor of concussion. With promising results shown, the article indicates that targeted strengthening for the neck should be developed and evaluated for primary prevention of concussion!
Interestingly this is something that Rob and his team here at The Buckingham Clinic have already been advocates of. Boxing superstar Ricky Burns has attended our state of the art MedX gym in preparation for his fights to strengthen his neck. We have had a number of Glasgow Hawks Rugby players use our gym for neck and core strengthening, two of whom went on to sign contracts with the local professional rugby team Glasgow Warriors. A number of big names in martial arts, such as Chris Shaw, local Muay Thai champion and Scottish Fighter of the Year 2015, have also used our facilities for neck training and fight prep.
With such a push behind this type of preventative strategy, we at the Buckingham clinic are proud to be leading the charge with preventative training for our patients and athletes.