Feb 16, 2023 | The Sandpiper

I’m not much of a book reader, but I will read articles in the newspaper and magazines if they catch my interest. Well, one did! It was an article about woodpeckers in the Bird Watching magazine. As you all know, woodpeckers are always pecking in trees, and sometimes the wood on your house, (ugh) looking for food or making a hole in a tree for a nest. How do they peck so fast and for so long? Doesn’t that hurt their heads or damage their brains? In 2013, the late Eldon Greij wrote an article about how the woodpeckers’ anatomy protects the brain. He wrote another one in 2021 about the study of football players, their head injuries and woodpeckers. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. 

The football players would suffer from repeated traumatic brain injuries. Greij looked at a study and found eight out of ten woodpeckers tested positive for the protein which has non-reversible conditions in humans such as dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Another study showed that a woodpeckers bill and skull are made to work together like a hammer. They did a CT scan of a woodpecker’s skull. There was a “spongy bone at the frontal region of the skull” between the skull and the bill to absorb shocks! Some “engineers have incorporated this kind of cushioning in football helmets to protect the players from damage to their skulls.” Motorcycle riders and other sports use this type of cushioning in their helmets too. What a great find in woodpeckers and in protecting athletes and others from brain injuries. Yup, nature is amazing! And a big thank you to all that study them. 

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