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After a concussion-filled 2011, Doug Marrone and strength coach Will Hicks looked towards neck-strengthening workouts to prevent injury in 2012.
Earlier this season, Daily Orange writer Michael Cohen wrote an excellent piece on the silent killer of Syracuse's 2011 football season - concussions. Today, Cohen dove further into this story on SI.com.
As we have already learned from the original D.O. piece, Syracuse's struggles on the field in the second half of 2011 was a result of more than just poor execution. The team was rife with injuries, specifically concussions:
"I think a lot of us coaches who have played, we look back and say, 'Gosh, were there this many injuries when we played?'" said Marrone. "So for me, I was thinking of developing [the neck] area to help us."
After studying up on the affects of neck strength and size on concussions, Marrone and strength and conditioning coach Will Hicks made the neck a major focus of this offseason's regimen.
Part of the workouts relied on manual techniques in which Hicks used his hands and legs as resistance tools against each player. Other times, players paired up and worked together after Hicks demonstrated techniques. "We'll be on all fours and someone will put their knee out and you push your head up against it, in and out," said Justin Pugh, a junior offensive tackle.
Various other tools supplemented the manual resistance training. Hicks made use of harnesses and neckbands for additional resistance work, four-way neck machines that allow players to work their neck against weight and a HALO, a metal ring with an inflatable bladder. HALO is worn on the head to improve a 360-degree range of motion.
Cohen's piece goes on to describe Eastern Michigan's program and coach Ron English, who has taken similar steps to attempt to curtail his own team's issues with head injuries.
Concussions has become one of the biggest issues in football on all levels, and while there are differing opinions as to how effective these neck workouts and other precautions are at preventing these injuries, but it is great to see that our coaching staff is being progressive in attempting to preserve the health of their players.