With all the fervor surrounding the current concussion crisis....
Some are furious that the response hasn't been fast enough. Well, we've seen a flurry of assessment standards, treatment protocols, computer apps and congressional legislation over the last several months.
But, there are others who feel that the rush to protect an athlete's head has caused us to run away from the one body part that is best able to protect and preserve.
We're talking the neck....
Ray "Rock" Oliver, Director of Strength & Conditioning for University of Kentucky, has made the neck a focus in training his football players. Oliver feels that by improving the strength and thickness of the neck, the absorption of force is that much better. In a recent ESPN article, he stated the following:
“The No. 1 mechanism that’s absorbing a lot of the shock is the neck,
so we need to get that bigger.”
Oliver said he wants to add "one-half to three-fourths of an inch" to each of his players' necks this year. And he does that with a combination of lateral raises, shrugs, and flexing exercises.
"Remember looking at athletes 30, 40 years ago?" Oliver said in Training & Conditioning. "You could tell they were athletes because they had the big necks. Now, the legs are bigger, arms are bigger, chests, but not necks. I remember
one of the first things Kim Wood teaching me was that the neck is the number-one priority."
"Now, we spend all this time developing faster guys with bigger bodies and train them for these huge collisions," he continued. "Then we stand there and gulp and can't breathe when one of them can't get up for five minutes."
Here's a video of the Kentucky football's strength & conditioning program this summer. Note some of the different techniques Ray Oliver uses to strengthen the neck (at 7:13, 7:53, 9:04 in the video). Oh, and you can also catch a cameo of the Shuttle MVP somewhere around the 6:52 mark (it won't do a thing for your neck, but we still think it's a pretty awesome machine). Enjoy!