Texas high school football players are bigger and tougher. And concussions have quadrupled among student athletes in the past decade. But experts say four neck exercises, that parents can do with their child at home, can help protect them from whiplash like concussions.
"If you can get those muscles to activate and get a little bit stronger, you cannot only absorb impact better but you can maybe dissipate that impact a little bit," said Anthony Falsone, a strength conditioning specialist at the Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute.
Falsone starts with neck flexion, where you hang the head off a bench and then pull the head forward.
"He's gonna raise his chin to the collarbone, try to put that chin on the collarbone, hold it for a 1001 count, lower and control back down to a comfortable stretch," he said.
And pay attention to pain.
"Nothing painful; if you're having pain, back off a little bit," Falsone said.
This exercise, called the lateral flexion extension, should be a comfortable stretch.
"He's gonna raise his head trying to get the ear to the opposite shoulder come on up, take it over and all the way down," Falsone said.
In the neck extension, you bring the head back.
"Raise the head back get it as far back as he can squeezing these muscles, the erectors, in the back of the neck. And then down under control," Falsone said.
The fourth exercise is the barbell shrug to strengthen the muscles of the upper back.
"It's gonna provide a good deal of support and stability for the cervical spine," Falsone said. "Shrug the shoulders in an 'I don't know' type manner, hold them for 1001 count and lower under control.
"Don't drop the head. It's very important there's no speed here, it's all under control and very deliberate," he said.
Falsone says never drop the head or do these neck exercises too fast. To be safe, they must be done slowly and with control.