Concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is frequently associated with sports activities. It has generally been accepted that neck strengthening exercises are effective as a preventive strategy for reducing sports-related concussion risks. However, the interpretation of the link between neck strength and concussion risks remains unclear. In this study, a typical helmeted head-to-head impact in American football was simulated using the head and neck complex finite element (FE) model. The impact scenario selected was previously reported in lab-controlled incident reconstructions from high-speed video footages of the National Football League using two head-neck complexes taken from Hybrid III dummies. Four different muscle activation strategies were designed to represent no muscle response, a reactive muscle response, a pre-activation response, and response due to stronger muscle strength. Head kinematics and various head/brain injury risk predictors were selected as response variables to compare the effects of neck muscles on the risk of sustaining the concussion. Simulation results indicated that active responses of neck muscles could effectively reduce the risk of brain injury. Also, anticipatory muscle activation played a dominant role on impact outcomes. Increased neck strength can decrease the time to compress the neck and its effects on reducing brain injury risks need to be further studied.

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