In March of 2014, The American Journal of Sports Medicine published, Effect of neck muscle strength and anticipatory cervical muscle activation on the kinematic response of the head to impulsive loads, they concluded "Interventions aimed at increasing athletes' neck strength and reducing unanticipated impacts may decrease the risk of concussion associated with sport participation." This has important meaning for male and female athletes across the age spectrum for them to achieve greater neck strength and always improve their skill. By doing so they will be more accomplished in the anticipation of bracing for impact (anticipatory cervical muscle activation) and can reduce the magnitude of the head's subconcussive and concussive forces if incidences do occur.
A concussion (MTB, mild traumatic brain injury) and a variety of head and neck injuries are occurrences and risks associated with many of the sports that we play. On October 1st, 2017, The Journal of Biomedical Engineering published, The Role of Neck Muscle Activities on the Risk of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in American Football. Knowing neck strength is an effective preventative strategy in reducing sports related concussions, researchers wanted to examine the 'why' strength changed the head's kinematic response? They looked at four different muscle activation strategies - no muscle response, a reactive muscle response, a pre-activation response, and response due to stronger muscle strength to compare the effects of neck muscles on the risk of sustaining a concussion. "Simulation results indicated that active responses of neck muscles could effectively reduce the risk of brain injury." Increased neck strength can decrease the time to compress the neck and guard against the traumatic effects of injury. This study reaffirmed the aforementioned 2014 research.
As it turns, performance aside, this is why we strength train, to build our musculature to protect us as best we can during competition. Without question the number one and most important area of our body to train are the muscles of the head and neck. And if we are to look at training for performance -- remember as an athlete or coach, 'Where the head goes the body will follow', decreasing response time of neck muscles allows the body to move faster. Having quick responsive musculature throughout the system and a comparatively slower head and neck musculature is counterintuitive.
Make head and neck training a priority to keep athletes safe and Get Strong.