Concussions are an existential threat to the game of football, which is a why Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp had a meeting with brain expert Dr. Mickey Collins this week.
Muschamp came out of the meeting with one interesting nugget: woodpeckers don’t get concussion.
“A woodpecker is never going to have a concussion. Bet you didn’t know that. That’s a true story. They have an extra bone in their neck and they never can have a concussion,” he told reporters at a press conference yesterday.
Later he was asked to explain why, and his answer was great. His full explanation:
“I was in a concussion meeting yesterday, and there was an expert on concussions, so I’m going to take his word for it. I have not researched it, so it could be wrong. But woodpeckers have an extra bone in the back of their neck, which is there for every time he hits a wall or a tree. Obviously, he can’t ever have a concussion.”
“It’s all about really, concussions happen because your head is like an egg, and the yolk is your brain. So when you have violent action, those synapses are messed up, and that’s how it causes a concussion. I believe it’s the potassium runs out of the synapses and the calcium runs in.”
Muschamp is referring to a special hyoid bone that runs from the woodpecker’s beak, over its skull, and back around.
This bone, according a study that was written up in the Toronto Star, acts like a seatbelt to keep the brain in place during impact.
There are other factors that are believed to help the woodpecker avoid brain trauma (the shape of the beak, for example), but Muschamp is actually correct.
Here’s video of Muschamp’s explanation (60-second mark):
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