Temple Times Online Edition
    JANUARY 26, 2006
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Temple researchers debunk
head injury prevention technique

Photo courtesy Ryan T. Tierney

The external force applicator above allowed Ryan T. Tierney, director of Temple’s Graduate Athletic Training Program, and his team to apply a standardized amount of force to students’ heads in different directions. In their study on head injury prevention, the researchers found that resistance training is not as effective as commonly thought.

Contrary to popular thinking in athletics, traditional neck muscle resistance training may not protect athletes from head injuries.

 For eight weeks, kinesiologists at Temple worked with male and female Division I intercollegiate soccer players to see if a resistance training program would reduce the players’ head acceleration during impact. The results were recently published in the Journal of Athletic Training and also were highlighted at the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association’s annual meeting in Philadelphia.

 “We did see a change in the players’ neck muscle strength, but these changes made absolutely no difference in their ability to stabilize their heads when force was applied,” said Ryan Tierney, director of Temple’s Graduate Athletic Training Program.

According to Tierney, head impacts experienced during soccer cause head acceleration, similar to what a person experiences during a car crash. These impacts may cause mental impairment or accumulate and lead to permanent disability.

 Every year, 1.4 million Americans suffer from a traumatic brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head. Moreover, previous research conducted by Tierney found that women are more susceptible to these types of injuries than men. Before Tierney’s latest findings, many scholars and trainers believed that resistance training could reduce these instances among drivers, firearm users and those who participate in sports. 

Though resistance training failed, Tierney and his colleagues do not rule out the possibility that other types of training such as plyometrics (higher-intensity exercises used to develop power that involve explosive muscular contractions) could be used to combat this problem.
Other members of this research team include: kinesiology department chair Michael Sitler, Kathleen Swanik and David Stearne, all of Temple’s Biokinetics Research Laboratory; and Jamie Mansell, of Lincoln University’s health, physical education and recreation department.

Tory Harris