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Rock steady, Motörhead headbanging may cause brain injury

Motorhead's Mikkey Dee's pioneering beat may cause head injury
Motorhead's Mikkey Dee's pioneering beat may cause head injury
Photo by Frazer Harrison

It's official, listening to Motörhead may be dangerous to one's health, according to a study released today by Lancet (July 4, 2014). In January of last year, a 50-year-old man came to the neurosurgical department of Hannover Medical School in Germany with a 2 week history of a constant worsening headaches in his entire head. His medical history showed no previous head trauma, though he did admit to headbanging at a Motörhead concert four weeks prior.

Musician Mikkey Dee's pioneering beat may cause head injury. Motorhead performing 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Indio, California.
Photo by Frazer Harrison

The heavy metal beat of Mikkey Dee's drumming, who accepted a Maximum Metal award on behalf of the band in Berlin, was just too much for one brain to handle. The study authors note that though Motörhead is undoubtedly one of the greatest rock’n’roll bands on earth, the heavy metal tempo of 200 beats per minute, of which the band pioneered, may cause head injury when listeners engage in extreme headbanging.

Ariyan Pirayesh Islamian and colleagues from the Hannover Medical School, report in the case study that the patient developed a chronic subdural haematoma (bleeding in the brain) as a result of headbanging at the Motörhead concert. A cranial CT confirmed the man had a chronic subdural haematoma on the right side of his brain.

A subdural haematoma is a form of traumatic brain injury in which blood gathers under the dura (the outer protective membrane covering of the brain). Chronic subdural haematoma develops over days or weeks.Surgeons removed the haematoma (blood clot) through a burr hole and used closed system subdural drainage for 6 days after surgery. His headache subsided and he was well on his last examination 2 months later.

Although generally considered harmless, headbanging-related injuries include carotid artery dissection, whiplash, mediastinal emphysema, and odontoid neck fracture. This is the first reported case showing evidence that headbanging can cause “chronic” subdural haematoma.

“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 spontaneously”, explains lead author Dr Ariyan Pirayesh Islamian. “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 music’s contagious speed drive and the hazardous potential for headbanging fans to suffer brain injury.”