• This Piece of Equipment Could Protect Football Players from Neck Injuries

    on Dec 7th, 2017

There are seven bones at the top of your spine, but only one of them connects to your skull. It’s called the atlas vertebra, and its crucial for supporting the weight and permitting movement of your head. So, it’s pretty integral to keep it properly aligned. And while a procedure known as Atlas Orthogonal is extremely effective at re-aligning the vertebrae should you knock it out of alignment, your goal should of course be to keep it aligned to begin with so that’s not necessary.

Doing so involves taking care to protect yourself from a host of injuries that could potential misalign it, but one of the main activities that results in misalignment injuries is high-impact sports. Specifically, this is can be a major issue for anyone who plays football – or, more likely, whose kid(s) play football. Most people are aware that football is dangerous because of its potential to cause concussions that can lead to CTE symptoms, but football players also get hurt in a number of other ways that may be less serious but are still best avoided.

Players’ necks are nearly as susceptible to injury as their heads are, since the cervical spine doesn’t naturally compress downward toward the body, but that’s exactly what happens on nearly every football hit as the head is driving toward the body.

Dr. Patrick Kerr, the inventor of the Atlas Orthogonal treatment, wanted to do something about that. Dr. Kerr played Pop Warner, high school and college football himself as a kid, so he’s well aware of the dangers and just what it feels like to get tackled or make a tackle in a football game. A former linebacker, he once made a makeshift piece of equipment to protect his neck by taping down a soft Adams Roll and placing it directly under his helmet, according to SportTechie.

But even today, the neck has largely been ignored when it comes to player protection and safety issues in football. Kerr has his theories why.

“Number one, I think is the reality that every player is different in size, when it comes to the neck. Some are long, short, thick, or thin, so it’s hard to fit,” he says.

“Number two is that that it is very difficult to add protection to a body part that requires tremendous movement to play the game.

“Sadly, the third reason is liability – companies do not want to ‘risk’ being sued in case of injury.”

But if players aren’t protected, the real danger is in the injuries they may sustain. With that in mind, Kerr took it upon himself to develop something a bit more sophisticated than his early jerry-rigged padding. The Kerr Collar attempts to absorb the maximum amount of impact from hits possible. He ran it through a series of 48 tests at Virginia Tech. It was some of the most expansive research ever done into protecting football players’ necks.

The results of the studies found that the collar reduced neck impact by, on average, 58 percent. It also lessens head and neck movement by an average of 38 percent when being hit.

“In order for football to survive, this has to happen,” said Kerr. “The science of collision is increasing and kids are also getting bigger and faster. Parents will demand it.”

But it’s about more than just wearing the right protection. While padding like the Kerr Collar can help football players to stay safe, they also need to learn to protect themselves by rethinking how they approach tackling and being tackled. It’s a fundamental re-thinking of how to play the game. And for the game to survive and its players to stay safe, it’s absolutely necessary.

Specifically, tacklers need to learn to keep their heads up when making a tackle so that the force of the collisions is more evenly distributed, lowering the risk that it puts undue stress on the spine and causes an injury to the atlas vertebrae.

“They say that football is a ‘game of inches,’ said Kerr. “Protecting the human body in football is a game of millimeters.”

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