Love headbanging to metal? Be careful out there. Here’s why.

The Wacken festival, the world’s largest gathering of metal bands, starts today just north of Hamburg, Germany. I see that Dying Fetus, Witch Taint and Hardbone are part of the bill this year. Nice.

Cue the stories about headbanging, too.

According to a study published by the British Medical Journal in 2008, the first headbangers were Led Zeppelin fans seen in the audience of the band’s 1968-89 North American tour. Since then, it’s become popular to aggressively bob your head to metal–or, as academics put it, “a violent and rhythmic movement of the head.”

According to science, the ideal headbanging tempo is 146 beats per minute. Here’s an example of a song with that tempo. Bang if you must.


One may headbang with relative safety if the range of neck motion is less than 75 degrees. Any more than that could result in injury. Serious injury.

Take the case of Evanescence guitarist Terry Balsamo. A dedicated headbanger all his life, he managed to badly bruise his carotid artery and assorted veins his neck. The result was a blot clot that traveled to his brain.

One of the reasons SLAYER is calling it a day is because guitarist Toma Araya has a bad neck resulting from headbanging injuries. He can’t do anything that might strain his neck.

And then there’s this guy who represented at a hospital emergency ward with a headache that had plagued him for eight days. A CT scan revealed a blood clot which required emergency surgery. The suspected cause? Repeated headbanging at a Motorhead show four weeks earlier.

To learn more about this history and perils of headbanging, go here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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