Your Last Defense From the Knockout Punch
What’s happening in the brain when you’re hit on the chin reveals a solution.
UFC 217 (Madison Square Garden): MMA fans were treated to a rare feat this weekend, as three title fights resulted in three new champions. While all three fights were expected to go at least three rounds (out of five), none made it to the end of the second round. In a sport where you can impose loss of consciousness on your opponent, the fate of a fight can change in a split second, regardless of what has happened leading up to that point.
Three Chins. Three Falls.
All three title fights had a similar end: Rose Namajunes connected flush with Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s chin with a left hook, TJ Dillashaw caught Cody Garbrandt with a right hook to the chin and Georges St-Pierre landed a left hook to Michael Bisping’s chin. For Joanna, Cody and Michael, their knees gave out, eyes rolled back, and they fell to the ground before their competitors jumped on top to close out the fight.
What is Happening Here?
What you’re seeing is the result of rotational acceleration on the brain stem. When a blow is delivered to the tip of the chin, the twisting on the brain causes “Diffuse Axonal Injury” (DAI), or sheer strain on axons in the brain.
University of Rochester researchers, Brian Blyth MD and Jeff Bazarian MD, focus on sports related concussion. Their research states:
Sudden rotational forces cause shearing strains and stresses that result in…post-traumatic amnesia, dazed states and loss of consciousness. Shear strain is most prominent after rotational injury, and brain tissue is particularly sensitive to this type of strain.(1)
It’s Not the Chin… It’s the NECK!
In a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, TJ Dillashaw said, “You can’t condition your chin.”
The reason the chin is the place to hit is because it causes the most rotational acceleration on the brain stem. The only way to mitigate rotational acceleration is by developing rotational neck strength that can more efficiently absorb these forces.
Athletes generally focus exclusively on flexion and extension (working the back and front of the neck). But, how effective is this when the forces are primarily rotational? Rotational neck strength isn’t something most people work on – primarily because it is not easy to do – especially without a training partner. At DeFranco’s, we’ve recently started implementing the Iron Neck with our combat athletes. Mike Jolly, inventor of the Iron Neck (a revolutionary neck-strengthening piece of equipment), figured out a way to strengthen the musculature of the neck “three-dimensionally”. This “three-dimensional” approach includes rotation. Rotational neck training has lots of health benefits but the knockout punch to the chin is a clear example of how it helps.
TJ Dillashaw was right about not being able to condition your chin. But if you want a strong chin – try shifting your focus just below – and start training your NECK, rotationally.
– Joe D.