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Head Positioning and Concussions

Posted by on August 28th, 2018

Football player and doctor

“Concussion.” Via MedlinePlus.gov, August, 2018, Public Domain.

Concussions happen daily in the United States and are a form of traumatic brain injury or TBI.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate there were 2.8 million emergency room visits related to TBI.  With the prevalence of TBIs, it is no surprise that there are multiple research studies focus on this injury.  A new study made a breakthrough by studying woodpeckers!

TBI’s can be mild or severe enough to result in death. Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • balance problems/dizziness
  • double or blurry vision
  • sensitivity to light and noise
  • fatigue or drowsiness
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • trouble comprehending and/or concentrating
  • depression
  • irritability, nervousness, or sadness
  • feelings of being “just not right” or in a “fog”

Researchers have been looking for ways to minimize the impact TBIs have on sufferers.  A previous study examined whether how tense the neck muscles were could impact concussion risk.  It was believed that tense neck muscles slightly reduced acceleration.  A new study, however, found  that at higher velocity rates the neck muscles did not play a role.  The study out of Stanford shows that head positioning does affect concussion risk.  Read the entire study to learn more about the specifics of their findings and the role woodpeckers played.

These findings could be vital in TBI prevention.  David Camarillo, associate professor of bioengineering added, “ “Discovering how sensitive the head is to slight changes in positioning has implications on design of helmets and other protective equipment,” Camarillo said. “For example, could the facemask in football be offering a lever arm that adds to the rotation of the head and therefore risk of concussion? Are downhill mountain bike helmets protecting the chin at the cost of the brain?  We hope to use this model we have developed to determine better design geometry of helmets and potentially for input to coaching on how to brace for impact.”

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