In a game as active and violent as football, head injuries have been a negative side effect from the beginning. Head injuries, and specifically concussions, have been pushed to the forefront of the NFL recently due to higher profile players suffering such injuries and because of the increased interest Congress has taken on the matter.
Last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with a U.S. House of Representatives committee and then shortly after that event the NFL instituted stricter rules that prohibit players from re-entering a game if they display symptoms of a concussion.
Increased awareness of the concussion issue by Congress, the League offices and the public will hopefully begin to curb the number of serious head injuries suffered by athletes in the NFL and also across the country in other sports and at other levels, such as college and high school athletics. But there's a more effective way to prevent serious head injuries and the Vikings are one entity on top of the game.
FoxSports.com's Alex Marvez recently penned an interesting article about this very issue and spoke with several individuals in the sports industry who have been proactive in preventing head injuries by focusing on neck-strengthening exercises. One of those individuals is former University of Michigan Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Gittleson and another is Vikings Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Kanavy.
Gittleson was at the University of Michigan for 30 years and now visits hundreds of colleges as a representative of a sports apparel company.
"I assure you there are very few programs training the neck," Marvez quotes Gittleson as saying. "It's unbelievable. In high schools, it's probably worse. We have these magnificent bodies, and we're not attending to the cylinder that protects the skull. We need to build to deflect and dissipate force."
Marvez goes on to chronicle Gittleson's efforts to raise awareness of the importance of neck-strengthening exercises for athletes, and specifically for football programs. Marvez also goes on to point out that Kanavy is a strong proponent for neck-strengthening exercises as well.
Kanavy, who is currently in the middle of his offseason training program with the Vikings, tells Marvez that neck training is "probably the most important thing we do" and also says "Our primary responsibility as strength and conditioning coaches is injury prevention. That's (the head) a highly susceptible area to serious injury."
The head and brain injury issue is certainly one that is hard to completely understand because of the complexities of that part of the human anatomy. But what’s clear is that neck-strengthening exercises are vital to preventing these serious head injuries.
To that end, the Vikings are on top of the game.