Northwestern concussion prevention with professional athletes featured on WCCO

Liala Helal | March 19, 2015

Northwestern Health Sciences University is entering the field on game day one step ahead of helmets and protective gear

Minnesota Swarm

Holding professional athletes by the neck before the game, doctors and practitioners from the university’s Human Performance Center are giving athletes strength that may help them prevent serious injuries or concussions. With the growing concern about concussions in both high school and professional sports, and the recent retirement of NFL player and San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland at age 24 because of concerns about head trauma, it’s a time when Northwestern is one of just a few tackling the problem from the root.

Stepping back from focus on new diagnostic tests and equipment to detect concussions, Northwestern provides chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy and strength training to professional sports teams like the Minnesota Swarm, a professional lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League, before they enter the field. WCCO This Morning aired that story March 18.

Northwestern is also the official chiropractic provider for Minnesota Vixen Women’s Football team and helps high school teams learn about sports injury prevention.

“They need to be fine-tuned,” said Dr. Tim Stark of Northwestern’s Human Performance Center to WCCO. “I often times relate a high-performance athlete to a Nascar or a drag-racing car.”

The root of the solution is at the root of the neck. Dr. Stark said stronger neck muscles and joints can help absorb impact from sports and prevent injury.

“Taking care of the neck is pretty important,” Dr. Stark said to WCCO. “It’s what holds your head on, right? But a lot of concussion symptoms mimic whiplash. And much of society understands what whiplash is. It’s an acceleration-deceleration of the head. And as you can imagine, anything that might cause a concussion is probably also influencing the cervical spine.”

Dr. Stark added that with so much societal attention on concussions over other injuries, some neck injuries can go undiagnosed.

“And if that’s ignored, if it’s not thoroughly evaluated and managed, an athlete might continue having ongoing symptoms that a provider or coaches might think is a concussion,” Dr. Stark said to WCCO. “If it’s truly coming from the neck and being ignored, then that athlete is going to be on the bench longer.”

Minnesota Swarm lacrosse player Callum Crawford gets chiropractic adjustments from Northwestern doctors or practitioners right before the game. He was featured in the WCCO video, noting he typically experiences back pain. The adjustments help him warm his muscles up, and he feels better getting on the field knowing his health is in good hands and that doctors could catch something before it’s too late.

“A big part of it is physical preparation,” Crawford said to WCCO. “Getting my body to feel where I want it to be before I get out there.”

 Editor’s note: WCCO This Morning conducted the reporting of this story.

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