Objective: To investigate the effectiveness of a neck strengthening program on the isometric neck strength profile of male rugby union players.
Design: Controlled laboratory study.
Setting: Professional rugby union club.
Participants: Fifteen professional and 10 semiprofessional rugby union players.
Interventions: The 15 professional players undertook a 5-week neck strengthening intervention, which was performed twice per week, whereas the 10 semiprofessional players acted as the control group.
Main outcome measures: Isometric strength of the neck musculature was tested using a hand-held dynamometer, for flexion (F), extension (E), left-side flexion (LSF), and right-side flexion (RSF). Preintervention and postintervention evaluations were undertaken.
Results: No significant between-group differences in isometric neck strength were noted preintervention. A significant main effect for time was observed (P < 0.05), whereby the intervention group increased isometric neck strength in all planes after the 5-week intervention (F preintervention = 334.45 ± 39.31 N vs F postintervention 396.05 ± 75.55 N; E preintervention = 606.19 ± 97.34 vs E postintervention = 733.88 ± 127.16 N; LSF preintervention = 555.56 ± 88.34 N vs LSF postintervention = 657.14 ± 122.99 N; RSF preintervention = 570.00 ± 106.53 N vs RSF postintervention = 668.00 ± 142.18 N). No significant improvement in neck strength was observed for control group participants.
Conclusions: The results of the present study indicate that a 5-week neck strengthening program improves isometric neck strength in rugby union players, which may have implications for injury prevention, screening, and rehabilitation.
Clinical relevance: The strengthening program described in the present study may facilitate rehabilitation specialists in the development of neck injury prevention, screening, and rehabilitation protocols.