Could woodpeckers teach us how to prevent concussions?

When woodpeckers repeatedly whack their heads against trees, they seem to not have the same effects as when a football player is on the receiving end of a concussion-inducing tackle.

Head injuries in the NFL are not new topic, but its long-term effects have gained more attention in recent years, and athletic companies have been inspired by the head-banging birds to model helmets and neck collars after them. 

However, a new study shows woodpeckers may not be completely immune to head trauma at all. Researchers found that a protein with abnormal buildup – that’s considered a sign for human brain damage – also accumulates in woodpecker’s brains.

They requested woodpecker specimens from various museums to study. They were intrigued to learn that although there is evidence of the protein, it doesn’t appear the woodpeckers have the same reaction. 

Researchers are hoping to find out how the woodpeckers can accomplish this, and possibly translate the results into helping athletes, whether there is a way to eliminate or suppress the protein accumulation, or replicate the effects.

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