By: Erin E. Ducat DC, CSCS, CCSP
A recent blog post in the New York Times discussed research that showed a 30% reduction in head injuries when football players played for part of the time without helmets. The theory is that by practicing without the protective device, the players learned how to tackle without using their neck and head. A continued benefit was noted even during the games when they had their standard helmets again.
As a sports medicine specialist and also someone who evaluates patients involved in motor vehicle accidents, I get to see the result of head injuries often in my office. In addition to the typical brain-related symptoms, patients also often sustain neck and shoulder injuries, causing chronic neck pain, stiffness and persistent headaches. This can create a “weak link” if not fully strengthened, leading to repeat injuries down the road.
The encouraging news from this study is that the athletes were able to adapt to the new environment of playing without helmets and translate that to their regular play. In other words, when given the right stimulus, your brain and muscles can “re-learn” posture and how you move to prevent injury.
This concept can be applied to any injury that occurs due to poor posture, movement habits or chronic injuries. We put your body into an environment where it has to adapt and then repeat it often enough that you consider it your new “normal.” This is the foundation of most of the therapy exercises used in our practice.
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