Whiplash is relatively common. The injury can occur to a person's neck following a sudden unrestrained acceleration-deceleration. The force causes the head and neck to move in an abrupt violent manner which can cause soft tissue, as well as, connective tissue injuries and if potent enough can damage nerves and bony structures. We are all susceptible to whiplash anywhere from a Grade 0-4 while driving, biking, working, sports and more.
The hallmark of strength training is preventative medicine. The first objective is to become and stay strong to reduce the risk of injury and to continue a healthy lifestyle as one progressive through aging. When dealing with strength training and whiplash it is important to understand how a sudden shock affects which structures and what we should be doing in our exercise programs to offset it.
An interesting place to advance our knowledge of a sudden shock to the system is the muscle activity of the neck during skydiving. The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine, Science and Sports published a scientific article examining twenty experienced skydivers muscle activity with electromyography when opening their chutes.
The results indicated that during ‘parachute opening shock’ the maximum voluntary electrical activity is in the temporal muscles “often exceeding reference activity in the lower posterior neck and upper shoulders”.
The temporalis retracts the jaw and assists the masseter muscles which elevate the mandible to close the mouth. It’s sudden flexion triggers the upper cervical spine to tighten in an attempt to support the head and care for the vertebrae.
The electromyography data shows how we use the muscles of the head, jaw and upper neck to contract quickly protecting us. These muscles often reach peak force before our upper torso can become fully engaged. This information is important in program design when Getting Strong. Include exercises for the head neck and jaw in your exercise routine.