Neck strengthening and injuries

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 19th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Generations of athletes have developed their necks to stump-like proportions, believing it cut their risk of head injuries.

Now it appears they may have been wrong.

A recent Temple University study showed that greater neck strength didn’t help college soccer players keep their heads stabilized during sudden impact.

Stability is important when players use their heads to strike the ball. Concussions account for up to twenty-two percent of high-school and college soccer injuries.

In the study, published in The Journal of Athletic Training, male and female players completed an eight-week program of resistance exercises. All participants got stronger, and the women gained a small amount of neck size, too.

The researchers evaluated each player’s head stability before and after the program, using a device that dropped a two-pound weight, causing a sudden tug on players’ heads.

Though the apparatus sounds like something Rube Goldberg might dream up, it simulated light contact between a soccer ball and a player’s head.

The results showed players experienced the same amount of head movement before and after the neck-strengthening program. That was true for both men and women.

But the researchers conceded that a different training program might give better results. One possibility is plyometrics [ply-uh-MET-rix], a high-intensity method of developing explosive muscle contraction.

So it might be too early to dismiss neck strengthening as a safety measure. And of course, when it comes to fashion statements, nothing says “jock” like a shirt with a thirty-inch collar.