Cervical range of motion and proprioception in rugby players versus non-rugby players

J Sports Sci. 2007 Jun;25(8):887-94. doi: 10.1080/02640410600944543.


In this study, we examined the effects of number of years of playing rugby on neck function. Active cervical spine range of motion and proprioception were assessed in 14 non-rugby-playing but trained sportsmen (mean age 28 years, s = 7) and 46 rugby players (26 rugby forwards: mean age 26 years, s = 5; mean years played 14 years; 20 backs: mean age 24 years, s = 5; mean years played 14 years). Active cervical range of motion in flexion, extension, left and right lateral flexion, plus left and right rotation were measured using a cervical range of motion device. The ability to reposition the head in a central position with eyes closed was taken as a measure of proprioception. Results show that rugby forwards generally had the least active cervical range of motion, particularly neck extension (forwards, 43 degrees ; backs, 55 degrees ; controls, 58 degrees ), with the decrement correlating with the number of years played. In addition, repositioning was significantly worse in rugby players after neck extension than non-rugby players (6 degrees vs. 3 degrees ). The active cervical range of motion of rugby forwards is similar to that of whiplash patients, suggesting that participation in rugby can have an effect on neck range of motion that is equivalent to chronic disability. Reduced active cervical range of motion could also increase the likelihood of injury and exacerbate age-related neck problems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Football*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neck / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Whiplash Injuries