“Head banging” to music, particularly rock, punk, or heavy metal; is a common form of self-expression exhibited by musicians and listeners that includes rhythmically – and violently – swinging their head in all directions, as directed by the beat of the song. Such motions of extreme flexion, extension, or perhaps even spinning motions, has led to dire consequences, few of which have been reported in academic journals. This systematic review will summarize all of the studies that have been published regarding head banging to music and injuries to the brain that individuals have encountered when engaging in this rocking act.
A systematic review of PubMed was performed. Search terms included head banging, music, rock, heavy metal and concerts. Studies were included if they discussed head banging in the context of music and brain injuries. Articles discussing head banging in the context of physical trauma or childhood developmental disorders were excluded. The reference sections of the remaining articles were used to screen for additional articles on this subject.
In total, the reviewer found 12 articles – 11 case reports and 1 observational study –that fit into the inclusion criteria of this review. These cases included brain injuries primarily by hematomas and arterial aneurysms, dissections, and thromboses.
When considering the prevalence of rock, punk, and heavy metal musicians and listeners; 11 case reports and 1 observational study on brain injury might seem pretty minimal. While the number of reported cases might seem small, it’s postulated that there is a much higher incidence rate than is reflected by the current literature, due to clinically silent symptoms or spontaneously resolving post-concert mild headaches. A single occurrence of these mild self-resolving brain injuries might not mean much, but compounded and multiplied by numerous occurrences, these minimal headaches could do further damage than is currently seen.
James Meiling– PGY-1 Resident, Medical City Weatherford