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Effectiveness of a tailored neck training program on neck strength, movement, and fatigue in under-19 male rugby players: a randomized controlled pilot study

Authors Barrett M, McLoughlin T, Gallagher K, Gatherer D, Parratt M, Perera J, Briggs T

Received 19 September 2014

Accepted for publication 6 December 2014

Published 5 May 2015 Volume 2015:6 Pages 137—147


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5

Editor who approved publication: Professor Fu

Matthew D Barrett,1 Terence F McLoughlin,2 Kieran R Gallagher,1 Don Gatherer,3 Michael TR Parratt,1 Jonathan R Perera,1 Tim WR Briggs1

1Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, Middlesex, United Kingdom; 2Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, Mersey Deanery, United Kingdom; 3The Gatherer Partnership, Aylesbury, United Kingdom

Purpose: To investigate the effect of a tailored neck muscle conditioning program on neck muscle strength, neck muscle fatigue, and range of neck movement in 16–18-year-old male rugby players.
Materials and methods: Thirty-four male rugby players were divided into forward and back playing positions and randomized within these groups. Seventeen players were randomly assigned to each group. The test group was given a tailored 6-week exercise regime based on their baseline measurements to be performed three times a week in addition to their normal training and playing. The control group trained and played as normal. The outcome measures used were cervical spine range of movement, neck strength, and neck muscle fatigability.
Results: There were no clinically relevant statistically significant differences between the two groups. Trends identified between the two groups suggest that a tailored neck exercise program increases neck strength, particularly neck extension, and increases resistance to fatigue, as well as influencing right- and left-sided neck muscle balance. A reduction in range of movement was also demonstrated in the test group. There was a great deal of variability in range of movement and strength within this age group. No previously undiagnosed neck conditions were detected, and there were no adverse events reported.
Conclusion: This study has shown that neck strength, range of movement, and susceptibility of the neck muscles to fatigue can be influenced using a focused neck training regime. It forms an important basis for a larger, multicenter study to ensure the neck is given due attention in rugby training and receives the same focus of conditioning as other parts of the body.

Keywords: injury, sport, muscle, youth, scrum

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