Why We Do What We Do
Gabe Harrington is the Head Strength and Conditioning coach for Colgate University. Gabe speaks out about strength training...Champions.
There are many reasons why a strength coach would have his athletes strengthen the muscles of the head and neck; increased blood flow to the brain, lower concussion risk, and improvement of one’s overall strength just to name a few. Here at Colgate, we recognize all of these, but the number one reason is to PROTECT OUR ATHLETES AGAINST SERIOUS HARM.
In all sports there are inherent risks. Football has an arguably greater risk than any other sport. That means that at some point a player may sustain an injury. Some injuries are minor (sprained ankle, broken finger), some are severe and require surgery (torn ACL, broken femur), and some are catastrophic (cervical spine damage, traumatic brain injury) causing permanent damage to cognitive function, paralysis, and even death.
The job of any strength and conditioning coach has many facets, but first it is building the athlete physically so that he is capable of withstanding the inherent dangers of the sport. This is not an easy process. It takes years to do this properly. The player understands the risk and looks to their coaches to prepare them. Moms and dads turn their children over to us – they TRUST US.
In our week nine game versus Lafayette, our starting middle linebacker, Pat Friel had a close call. He came in as the second man on an open field tackle, hitting the ball carrier with a clean shot. But his head was down – the most dangerous angle to put the cervical spine in upon contact. He lay motionless on the field, his arms and hands frozen at an unnatural angle… He was paralyzed and could not feel or move his hands. We all feared the worst. He was immobilized on a stretcher and taken to the hospital… By the end of the fourth quarter we received word that he had feeling and movement in his hands. Shortly after the game, he WALKED OUT of the hospital with only a concussion. Tests indicated there was no damage to his spine or spinal cord. Pat had one of the strongest necks on our team. As a senior, who strength trained year round for 4 years in the Colgate program, he had an opportunity to gain overall size and strength. With the work he put in, the strength and size gains in his head and neck were stunning.
Pat and Gabe After the Victory
We may never know the time or place when this work we put in will be called upon to save us, but we must be prepared. Pat was prepared. And though he was not able to play in our championship game the following week, he has been cleared to play again this season, and more importantly, he will play with his children one day.
THAT is why we take the time to train the head and neck.