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Neck strengthening exercises can help prevent concussions, doctors say

Rock Center

Doing daily neck strengthening exercises can help protect girls who play collision sports from getting concussions, said Dr. Bob Cantu, a neurosurgeon and leading concussion researcher.

Recent studies show that girls are reporting twice as many concussions as boys in the sports they both play.

Dr. Cantu said that if done regularly and properly, these exercises can help prevent more concussions than any product on the market, according to the scientific evidence to date.

The exercises can be done easily at home – simply by pressing one's head against one’s hand, in different directions. It can also be done with a partner or even with a band or machine as long as the exercise creates resistance.

WATCH: Kate Snow's full Rock Center report about use of headgear to try to prevent girls' soccer concussions


"That can make a significant difference in reducing the acceleration the head sees, and in that sense, reducing your chance of having a concussion," Dr. Cantu said.

Girls who strengthen their necks and then brace for impact when they see a ball or another player coming at them will be more protected than those that don't, he explained.

Dr. Cantu recommends girls who play collision sports do these exercises - several sets of 10 in each direction - every day.

"If you can bring yourself to do them twice a day, that's fine, but once every day is enough," he said.

Amid the new wave of concussion awareness, a growing number of schools and medical providers are now instituting a concussion evaluation system to not only better detect concussions, but also determine when an athlete can return to play. Part of  the evaluation involves a neurocognitive assessment that's done through a computer test.  One of the most widely used computer tests is the ImPACT Test.

Young players take the test when they're healthy in order to get a baseline reading.  If they have a concussion, they can take the test again to see how their score compares to their own normal cognitive function.  Many districts require students to keep taking the ImPACT test until their scores are back up to normal levels.  The test is one tool that can assist doctors in making return to play decisions.

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