Heavy Metal Headbanger’s Brain Bleeds

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A Motorhead fan was recently treated due to a brain bleed caused by headbanging to heavy metal music. Although the brain injury was directly correlated to headbanging, doctors say that fans do not need to give up rocking to their favorite music, as it is very rare that this kind of trauma happens. The doctors at Germany’s Hannover Medical School saw a 50-year-old man who was complaining of constant headaches that were getting increasingly worse as time went on. The patient had no history of substance abuse problems or previous head injuries. However, he did mention that he had been regularly headbanging for years, most recently at a Motorhead concert.

After scanning the patient, the doctors discovered that the man had a brain bleed, medically entitled as chronic subdural hematoma, on the right side of his brain which needed to be drained. Soon after the surgery, the patient’s headaches disappeared. In a follow-up scan however, the doctors found a benign cyst on the man’s brain, which could have made the heavy metal fan more vulnerable to this type of injury. Although banging his head back and forth briskly led to the rupture of bridging veins which in turn caused hemorrhage and was a major factor in the man’s brain bleed, doctors are convinced that the risk of injury from headbanging is still very low.

The violent shaking of the head can sometimes be enough to create damage in the brain as it bumps up against the skull. There have been other previous, similar injuries in a handful of heavy metal fans, but it is still extremely rare. The band Motorhead is known for helping to create the genre “speed metal” which encourages remarkably fast headbanging.

There have been at least three other similar situations of brain hemorrhage due to headbanging, including one case which ended up leading to the patient’s sudden death. Even Tom Araya, frontman for the heavy metal band Slayer announced that he would be giving up on his signature headbanging moves after doctors inserted a steel plate into his spine in order to deal with the physical damage that had occurred after 30 years of headbanging in the same position.

The University of New South Whales offered a recommendation to heavy metal headbangers in an effort to prevent brain bleeds. They warned that thrashing their head in a range greater than 75 degrees to songs with a tempo of around 146 bpms can increase the risk for headaches and possibly strokes. The researchers suggested that fans might be able to avoid the risk by changing their style to headbanging only to every second beat, listening to softer rock, or wearing a neck brace. Those proposals were not very appealing to heavy metal fans, however.

Generally, headbanging to heavy metal causes nothing more than whiplash, but depending on the severity of the thrashing and how often it is executed, brain bleeds and other implications can occur. Regardless of the rhythmic and sometimes violent movement during heavy metal concerts, doctors and researchers have assured fans that they are safe to “rock on.”

By Addi Simmons

Star Tribune
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The Independent

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