Headbanging to Motörhead can kill you, says science (Wired UK)

Motörhead, considering their impact on the health and wellbeing of fans everywhere
Motörhead, considering their impact on the health and wellbeing of fans everywhereShutterstock

Headbanging to Motörhead can
kill you. So says science.

Ok, so it’s not common. But a team of neurosurgeons at Hannover
Medical School has indicated that it is a possibility, after
treating a 50-year-old fan that presented in January 2013 with a
terrible headache.

The anonymous patient had been suffering from the pains for two
weeks, but otherwise presented with an “unremarkable” medical
history and “denied substance abuse” the team, led by Ariyan
Pirayesh Islamian, reports in the Lancet.

“He had no history of head trauma, but reported headbanging at a
Motörhead concert four weeks previously,” write the physicians,
before clearing up any misunderstanding thus: “Headbanging is a
contemporary dance form consisting of abrupt flexion-extension
movements of the head to the rhythm of rock music, most commonly
see in the heavy metal genre.” A grave warning follows: “While such
shows are enjoyable and stimulating for the audience, some fans
might be endangered by indulging in excessive headbanging.”

Coagulation screening was issued for the anonymous patient, to
check that his blood was clotting properly. After all came back
normal the team ordered a CT scan, and there they found it: a
chronic subdural haematoma (bleeding under the membrane that
protects the brain, resulting in a clot).

This type of clot can be extremely dangerous, potentially
putting excessive pressure on the brain. The threat of death
depends on the type of haematoma — acute (formed straight after
injury) comes with a 65 percent risk of death in those aged 40-80;
subacute (formed up to a week after the initial injury) are less
threatening; chronic (formed over a period of two to three weeks)
results in death within the first 30 days of having surgery in one
out of 20 people. The patient fell into the latter category, so
there was a significant risk involved.

To treat the dedicated Motörhead fan, the German team drilled
burr holes into his skull to alleviate the pressure. A drain was
placed, and kept in for six days after surgery. The headache
cleared, and within eight days of the surgery the fan was home, and
was found to be symptom free at his two-month checkup.

It was concluded that, given his history, the “brisk forward and
backward acceleration and deceleration forces” the patient
experienced while dancing was what caused bridging veins in his
brain to rupture. A arachnoidal cyst may have been a “predisposing
factor”, they warned. These cysts are benign, however, and are
usually found inadvertently during other routine scans. It could
have made the brain “susceptible to haemorrhage into the subdural
space” though, the authors suggest, simply because of its

The doctors admit cases of headbanging leading to serious
complications are rare. They found three such examples, two
involving a subacute subdural haematoma, and one including an acute
haematoma. The latter led to the patient’s sudden death. Other
potential side effects include carotid artery dissection (a tear in
the arteries of the neck), mediastinal emphysema (a pocket of
trapped air around the heart, its vessels, the trachea and other
areas in the mediastinum), whip lash injury and fractures.

Islamian warns, however: “Even though there are only a few
documented cases of subdural haematomas, the incidence may be
higher because the symptoms of this type of brain injury are often
clinically silent or cause only mild headache that resolves

The article, in giving its readers a little context, tells us
that headbanging was popularised in the 70s, but “the number of
avid aficionados [i.e., potential victims] is unknown”. It does,
however, attribute Motörhead as being “seminal in the creation of
the speed metal sub genre, where tempos greater than 200 bpm are
aspired to”. So, they make people bang their heads really, really

Fans will be deligted to hear, however, that the doctors were
unanimous in one conclusion.

“This case serves as evidence in support of Motörhead’s
reputation as one of the most hardcore rock’n’roll acts on earth,
if nothing else because of their contagious speed drive and the
hazardous potential for headbanging fans to suffer brain

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Source: wired.co.uk

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