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Neck strength: a protective factor reducing risk for concussion in high school sports.

Collins CL1, Fletcher EN, Fields SK, Kluchurosky L, Rohrkemper MK, Comstock RD, Cantu RC.

J Prim Prev. 2014 Oct;35(5):309-19. doi: 10.1007/s10935-014-0355-2.

Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH, USA.

Abstract

As the number of high school students participating in athletics continues to increase, so will the number of sports-related concussions unless effective concussion prevention programs are developed. We sought to develop and validate a cost-effective tool to measure neck strength in a high school setting, conduct a feasibility study to determine if the developed tool could be reliably applied by certified athletic trainers (ATs) in a high school setting, and conduct a pilot study to determine if anthropometric measurements captured by ATs can predict concussion risk. In the study's first phase, 16 adult subjects underwent repeated neck strength testing by a group of five ATs to validate the developed hand-held tension scale, a cost effective alternative to a hand-held dynamometer. In the second phase, during the 2010 and 2011 academic years, ATs from 51 high schools in 25 states captured pre-season anthropometric measurements for 6,704 high school athletes in boys' and girls' soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, as well as reported concussion incidence and athletic exposure data. We found high correlations between neck strength measurements taken with the developed tool and a hand-held dynamometer and the measurements taken by five ATs. Smaller mean neck circumference, smaller mean neck to head circumference ratio, and weaker mean overall neck strength were significantly associated with concussion. Overall neck strength (p < 0.001), gender (p < 0.001), and sport (p = 0.007) were significant predictors of concussions in unadjusted models. After adjusting for gender and sport, overall neck strength remained a significant predictor of concussion (p = 0.004). For every >

 

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Effect of neck muscle strength and anticipatory cervical muscle activation on the kinematic response of the head to impulsive loads.

Eckner JT1, Oh YK, Joshi MS, Richardson JK, Ashton-Miller JA.

Author information

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Greater neck strength and activating the neck muscles to brace for impact are both thought to reduce an athlete's risk of concussion during a collision by attenuating the head's kinematic response after impact. However, the literature reporting the neck's role in controlling postimpact head kinematics is mixed. Furthermore, these relationships have not been examined in the coronal or transverse planes or in pediatric athletes.

HYPOTHESES:

In each anatomic plane, peak linear velocity (őĒV) and peak angular velocity (őĒŌČ) of the¬†head¬†are inversely related to maximal isometric cervical muscle strength in the opposing direction (H1). Under impulsive loading, őĒV and őĒŌČ will be decreased during anticipatory cervical muscle activation compared with the baseline state (H2).

METHODS:

Maximum isometric neck strength was measured in each anatomic plane in 46 male and female contact sport athletes aged 8 to 30 years. A loading apparatus applied impulsive test forces to athletes'¬†heads¬†in flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and axial rotation during baseline and anticipatory cervical muscle activation conditions. Multivariate linear mixed models were used to determine the effects of neck strength and cervical muscle activation on¬†head¬†őĒV and őĒŌČ.

RESULTS:

Greater isometric neck strength and anticipatory activation were independently associated with decreased¬†head¬†őĒV and őĒŌČ after impulsive loading across all planes of motion (all P < .001). Inverse relationships between neck strength and¬†head¬†őĒV and őĒŌČ presented moderately strong effect sizes (r = 0.417 to r = 0.657), varying by direction of motion and cervical muscle activation.

CONCLUSION:

In male and female athletes across the age spectrum, greater neck strength and anticipatory cervical muscle activation ("bracing for impact") can reduce the magnitude of the head's kinematic response. Future studies should determine whether neck strength contributes to the observed sex and age group differences in concussion incidence.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE:

Neck strength and impact anticipation are 2 potentially modifiable risk factors for concussion. Interventions aimed at increasing athletes' neck strength and reducing unanticipated impacts may decrease the risk of concussion associated with sport participation.

KEYWORDS:

head injuries/concussion; head kinematics; injury biomechanics; neck muscle activation; neck strength

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The Relationship Between Impact Force, Neck Strength, and Neurocognitive Performance in Soccer Heading in Adolescent Females

Marar M1, McIlvain NM, Fields SK, Comstock RD.

Am J Sports Med. 2012 Apr;40(4):747-55. doi: 10.1177/0363546511435626. Epub 2012 Jan 27.

BACKGROUND:

In the United States (US), an estimated 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually. Among individuals 15 to 24 years of age, sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of concussions.

PURPOSE:

To investigate the epidemiology of concussions in high school athletes by comparing rates and patterns of concussion among 20 sports.

METHODS:

Using an Internet-based data collection tool, RIO, certified athletic trainers from a large, nationally disperse sample of US high schools reported athlete exposure and injury data for 20 sports during the 2008-2010 academic years.

RESULTS:

During the study period, 1936 concussions were reported during 7,780,064 athlete-exposures (AEs) for an overall injury rate of 2.5 per 10,000 AEs. The injury rate was higher in competition (6.4) than practice (1.1) (rate ratio [RR], 5.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.2-6.3). The majority of concussions resulted from participation in football (47.1%, n = 912), followed by girls' soccer (8.2%, n = 159), boys' wrestling (5.8%, n = 112), and girls' basketball (5.5%, n = 107). Football had the highest concussion rate (6.4), followed by boys' ice hockey (5.4) and boys' lacrosse (4.0). Concussions represented a greater proportion of total injuries among boys' ice hockey (22.2%) than all other sports studied (13.0%) (injury proportion ratio [IPR], 1.7; 95% CI, 1.4-2.1; P < .01). In gender-comparable sports, girls had a higher concussion rate (1.7) than boys (1.0) (RR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.4-2.0). The most common mechanisms of injury were player-player contact (70.3%) and player-playing surface contact (17.2%). In more than 40% of athletes in sports other than girls' swimming and girls' track, concussion symptoms resolved in 3 days or less. Athletes most commonly returned to play in 1 to 3 weeks (55.3%), with 22.8% returning in less than 1 week and 2.0% returning in less than 1 day.

CONCLUSION:

Although interest in sports-related concussions is usually focused on full-contact sports like football and ice hockey, concussions occur across a wide variety of high school sports. Concussion rates vary by sport, gender, and type of exposure. An understanding of concussion rates, patterns of injury, and risk factors can drive targeted preventive measures and help reduce the risk for concussion among high school athletes in all sports.

 

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The relationship between impact force, neck strength, and neurocognitive performance in soccer heading in adolescent females.

Gutierrez GM1, Conte C, Lightbourne K.

Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2014 Feb;26(1):33-40. doi: 10.1123/pes.2013-0102. Epub 2013 Oct 2.

Abstract

Head impacts are common in contact sports, but only recently has there been a rising awareness of the effects of subconcussive impacts in adolescent athletes. A better understanding of how to attenuate head impacts is needed and therefore, this study investigated the relationship between neck strength, impact, and neurocognitive function in an acute bout of soccer heading in a sample of female high school varsity soccer players. Seventeen participants completed the ImPACT neurocognitive test and had their isometric neck strength tested (flexion, extension, and bilateral flexion) before heading drills. Each participant was outfitted with custom headgear with timing switches and a three-dimensional accelerometer affixed to the back of the head, which allowed for measurement of impact during heading. Participants performed a series of 15 directional headers, including 5 forward, 5 left and 5 right headers in a random order, then completed the ImPACT test again. Neurocognitive tests revealed no significant changes following heading. However, there were statistically significant, moderate, negative correlations (r = -0.500:-0.757, p < .05) between neck strength and resultant header acceleration, indicating that those with weaker necks sustained greater impacts. This suggests neck strengthening may be an important component of any head injury prevention/reduction program.

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