Greater neck girth and strength may be associated with a lower risk of sport-related concussion due to mitigation of head accelerations by the neck. However, neck strengthening exercise remains unstudied in youth athletes. Therefore, this pilot study assessed the feasibility and effect of targeted neck strengthening exercises in youth athletes. Seventeen participants were allocated to perform 8-wk manual resistance-based neck strengthening (n = 13) or control resistance exercise (n = 4) programs. Before and after the intervention, participants completed laboratory-based assessments of neck size, strength, and head kinematics during standardized test loading in each plane of motion. Descriptive statistics were calculated to compare pre-post changes between the two groups. All participants safely and successfully completed the intervention. Neck girth and strength increased in both groups, with greater increases in the neck strengthening group. Across all planes of motion, overall changes in head linear and angular velocity decreased in both groups, with greater decreases in ΔV in the neck strengthening group and greater decreases in Δω in controls. These results suggest the potential for resistance exercise training to reduce youth athletes' risk for sport-related concussion by increasing neck girth and strength. Additional research is needed to determine optimal neck strengthening programs.
From the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (JTE, EM, LMF); Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (AG, KC, AK, JAA-M); DISHER, Ann Arbor, Michigan (KC); Towson University, Towson, Maryland (EM); Department of Athletics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (MF); and Department of Radiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (JAJ).
All correspondence should be addressed to: James T. Eckner, MD, MS, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan, 325 E. Eisenhower Pkwy, Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
This work was funded by a pilot grant from the University of Michigan Injury Center and a Mid-Career Investigator Research Grant from the Foundation for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. In addition, Dr. Eckner received partial effort support from a Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health (1K23 HD078502-01A1). The authors do not stand to benefit financially from this work.
Preliminary results of this work have been presented in poster format as conference abstracts at the 2016 Big Sky Athletic Training Sports Medicine Conference, the American College of Sports Medicine 63rd Annual Meeting and 7th World Congress on Exercise is Medicine, the 2016 American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference, and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2016 Annual Assembly.
Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.