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Preventing Football Concussions: Lessons From Bird Brains


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How come woodpeckers can peck hardwoods without getting concussions? The answers might give us insights into how to prevent concussions in humans.

This is so cool:

The lightbulb moment came in 2007. Dr. David Smith, CEO of Xennovate Medical, had just wrapped up a presentation on wound dressings. Someone in attendance suggested he look at brain injuries: “If somebody can figure out how a woodpecker can smash its head into a tree and fly away without a headache, we’d probably have the problem solved,” Smith recalls the person saying.

He began studying woodpeckers. One of their most unusual features is a long tongue, which in some species is supported by bones that wrap all the way around the head. Smith theorizes these compress the woodpecker’s neck veins as it thrusts its head forward, increasing the volume of blood between its brain and its skull. Smith says this extra fluid “works like Bubble Wrap” to help keep the brain from knocking against the skull. He was convinced that the same effect could be reproduced in humans, perhaps with some kind of collar.

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