Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Neck training could be key to concussion issues

James Ihedigbo

Stickers commemorating the NFL’s Salute to Service are seen on the back of Baltimore Ravens defensive back James Ihedigbo’s helmet before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


NFL players can’t strap their brains to a weight machine to help them avoid concussion problems. But some strength coaches are advocating more emphasis on neck strength to help limit the damage and speed recovery.

Alex Marvez of talked to several strength coaches, who think that adding strength to the body part that holds the head up can be a key to reducing the impact of concussions.

“We probably put more emphasis on the neck because of the concussion aspect that now is part of our daily life,” Ravens strength coach Bob Rogucki said. “We want to minimize [the chances] and hopefully prevent, but you may not ever prevent it. The chance is always going to be there.

“If you can minimize and get them back on the field quickly, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Last year, the Ravens had three players — wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Bernard Pierce and tight end Dennis Pitta — suffer concussions during the season, and all three passed the league’s protocols and played the next week.

While not everyone is ready to attribute that to the added emphasis Rogucki puts on neck strengthening, it only makes common sense that a stronger base will prevent the head from whipping as violently when hit.

Of course, starting such programs earlier might help, as some coaches bemoan the lack of training college players get for their necks before the enter the league. Part of that’s natural, as players are drawn to exercises with immediate and tangible (i.e. visible) results.

“Players are going to attack the front [of their bodies]. They’re not going to attack the back because they can’t see it,” Rogucki said. “They look in the mirror and say, ‘I look pretty good. I’m going down to the beach.’ They don’t understand that in football it’s really the backside of the body that’s involved in a lot of activities of the game.

“I tell our guys we don’t care as much about bench [press] and some other exercises. It’s important that they can walk off the field without their head being strapped down to a [stretcher].”

Whether it’s a cure-all doesn’t matter, because as we learn more and more about the impact of concussions, anything that can be done to lessen their damage should be fully explored and given a chance to work.