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Neck strength could be next key measurable for NFL players

San Diego Chargers 2011 Headshots

SAN DIEGO, CA - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Takeo Spikes of the San Diego Chargers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)

Mike Nowak

Protecting the brain is, in some respects, a no-brainer.

One basic way to reduce concussions comes from making the muscles holding the head in place stronger. As Alex Marvez of explains it, strength coaches believe that increased neck size and strength can help.

Marvez writes that some NFL strength coaches believe that neck strength should be measured at the Scouting Combine.

“If you test the neck, I don’t know how it will affect a player’s draft status,” said Vikings strength coach Tom Kanavy. “But I know if we were to test, those [college] trainers would have no choice but to institute neck training. That’s where we’ve got to start.”

Eastern Michigan coach Ron English agrees with Kavany, and English thinks that making neck strength part of the NFL scouting process will make neck strength more of a focus at lower levels of the sport.

“It will change everything by having a trickle-down effect,” English said.

The NFL generally agrees with the notion that a stronger neck could result in fewer concussions. "[T]here is some thought one reason NFL players may have a decreased concussion risk in comparison to younger athletes and female athletes is the increased strength and development of their neck muscles,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Marvez. “There is no league-wide program or guidelines as this is theoretical, but nonetheless, all NFL strength and conditioning programs include neck muscles in one form or another.”

It makes sense, and anything that makes young athletes who participate in sports involving contact with the head better equipped to withstand that contact should be embraced.

Even if it makes young men and women throughout the nation look like Takeo Spikes.