19 December 2008

Holiday safety tips for head-bangers

by Kate Melville

The head-banging dance style that supposedly began at a Led Zeppelin concert in 1968 is a staple part of the lifestyle for the dedicated heavy metal fan; but medicos warn that too much vigorous head-banging can cause head and injury. Anecdotal reports of head banging induced injury include hearing loss, stroke and mild traumatic brain injury. Now, Australian researchers writing in the British Medical Journal have compiled some handy suggestions for rockers to minimize their chances of incurring any more brain damage than they may already have.

The researchers, Declan Patton and Andrew McIntosh from the University of New South Wales, gathered data to base their recommendations on by attending hard rock and heavy metal concerts featuring Motörhead, Ozzy Osbourne and Skid Row. They identified that the up-down style was the most common head banging technique. They then constructed a theoretical head banging model of this popular style to examine the effect the range of head and neck motion has on injury severity. A focus group of ten musicians was used to calculate the average tempo of their favorite head banging songs.

Patton and McIntosh found that there is an increasing risk of neck injury beginning at tempos of 130 beats-per-minute related to the range of motion in the head banging style. The average head banging song has a tempo of about 146 beats per minute. The researchers suggest that at this tempo head banging may cause headaches and dizziness if the range of movement of the head and neck is more than 75 degrees. They report that at higher tempos and greater ranges of motion there is an additional risk of neck injury.

And what of two of the most famous head bangers, Beavis and Butt-head? When head banging at a tempo of 164 beats per minute to "I Wanna be Sedated," the range of motion of Beavis' head and neck is about 45 degrees, say the authors, so he would be unlikely to sustain any injury. But the news for Butt-head may not be so rosy. Preferring to head bang at a range of motion of 75 degrees, he may well experience symptoms of headaches and dizziness.

Luckily, there are a number of possible ways to protect against these injuries, write the authors. These include calling for bands such as AC/DC to play songs such as "Moon River" instead of "Highway to Hell", public awareness campaigns headed by musicians such as Cliff Richard and the labeling of music packaging with anti-head banging warnings.

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Source: British Medical Journal