Therapeutic exercise for athletes with nonspecific neck pain: a current concepts review

Sports Health. 2012 Jul;4(4):293-301. doi: 10.1177/1941738112446138.


Context: Benign neck pain is common in athletes and is usually the result of minor sprains, strains, or contusions. Athletes with neck pain may have deficits in cervical and/or upper thoracic mobility, muscle recruitment, strength and endurance, repositioning acuity, postural stability, and oculomotor control.

Evidence acquisition: A Medline search was performed via PubMed to locate articles of any publication date through December 2011 using the search terms cervical pain, neck pain, athlete, athletic, therapeutic exercise, and rehabilitation. Reference lists of retrieved articles were searched for additional relevant references.

Results: Therapeutic exercise has promise as an intervention for individuals with neck pain, although reports on isolated athletic populations are lacking. To date, recommendations for specific therapeutic exercises have been derived largely from anecdotal or uncontrolled level IV or V evidence.

Conclusion: Clinicians should consider deficits, functional limitations, irritability level, and the sport's cervical spine stress profile when selecting exercises for athletes with neck pain.