Concerns surrounding concussions from impacts to the head necessitate research to generate new knowledge about ways to prevent them and reduce risk. In this paper, we report the relative temporal characteristics of the head resulting from neck muscle co-contraction and postural changes following a sudden force applied to the head in four different directions. In the two “prepared” conditions (i.e., co-contraction and postural), participants experienced impulsive forces to the head after hearing a warning. The warning given for the postural condition informed both the direction and timing of the impulsive force. Participants responded to the postural warning by altering their head posture, whereas in the co-contraction warning, the force direction was unknown to them, and they were asked to isometrically co-contract their neck muscles after the warning. Peak angular velocity reduced by 29% in sagittal extension, 18% in sagittal flexion, and 23% in coronal lateral flexion in prepared vs. unwarned conditions. Peak linear acceleration was attenuated by 15% in sagittal extension, 8% in sagittal flexion, and 18% in coronal lateral flexion in prepared vs. unwarned conditions. Changes in peak angular acceleration were not uniform. We also measured a significant delay in the peak angular velocity (22 vs. 44.8 ms) and peak angular acceleration (7 vs. 20 ms) after peak linear acceleration in prepared compared to unwarned conditions. An increase in muscle activation significantly reduced the peak angular velocity and linear acceleration. Gross head movement was significantly decreased with preparation. These findings suggest that a warning prior to impact can reduce head kinematics associated with injury.
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