Feasibility and Effect of Cervical Resistance Training on Head Kinematics in Youth Athletes: A Pilot Study

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Greater neck girth and strength may be associated with a lower risk of sport-related concussion due to mitigation of head accelerations by the neck. However, neck strengthening exercise remains unstudied in youth athletes. Therefore, this pilot study assessed the feasibility and effect of targeted neck strengthening exercises in youth athletes. Seventeen participants were allocated to perform 8-wk manual resistance-based neck strengthening (n = 13) or control resistance exercise (n = 4) programs. Before and after the intervention, participants completed laboratory-based assessments of neck size, strength, and head kinematics during standardized test loading in each plane of motion. Descriptive statistics were calculated to compare pre-post changes between the two groups. All participants safely and successfully completed the intervention. Neck girth and strength increased in both groups, with greater increases in the neck strengthening group. Across all planes of motion, overall changes in head linear and angular velocity decreased in both groups, with greater decreases in ΔV in the neck strengthening group and greater decreases in Δω in controls. These results suggest the potential for resistance exercise training to reduce youth athletes' risk for sport-related concussion by increasing neck girth and strength. Additional research is needed to determine optimal neck strengthening programs.

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