The sound of a woodpecker hard at work is (imo) a delightful sound, confirming that little bugs are becoming lunch for a hungry bird. (Unless, the birds are pounding into the house siding rather than a tree in which case it’s a terrifying sound, right up there with the sound of dollars running out of my bank account.) Either way, it’s a lot of woodpecker headbanging.
Have you ever thought about why they don’t get headaches?
Seriously, you’d think there would be tiny little avian pharmacies all over with the amount they bang their heads. Up to 20 times per second to be precise.
And while they don’t have big brains (the term “bird brain” comes to mind), there are very few documented cases of woodpecker concussions.
It was that thinking that led to the creation of the Q collar, the concussion prevention collar that is being tested, vetted, and otherwise used to try to reduce concussions during sporting events.
The idea is not to reduce the size of the players’ brains, but rather to help secure the athletes’ brains in place. It turns out that woodpeckers’ brains are held in place with muscles and bones (and an extra eyelid). Basically a bird brain seat belt/helmet.
A couple of high schools in the Cincinnati area have been testing the Q collar. Researchers are specifically focusing on football and girls’ soccer (not that we know anyone who got a concussion while playing either of those). The collar somehow increases the amount of blood around the brain to help hold those brain cells in place. The researchers are seeing fantastic results which is wonderful news.
The moral of the story is seat belts are important in the car and inside your head.
One other important fact: a woodpecker will only make straight strikes to a tree. No side-to-side movements helps prevent head trauma.
The next step for the researchers (obviously) is to figure out how to get athletes to always get hit straight on.