Can Neck Strength be Measured Using a Single Maximal Contraction in a Simulated Contact Position?

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Neck strengthening has been postulated to potentially reduce the incidence/severity of concussions and neck injuries in collision based sports. A quick and reliable method to assess neck strength would permit identification of those at risk and tracking of progress following injury. The purpose of this study was to determine if neck strength could be reliably assessed in a simulated contact posture using a single maximal contraction. During a single session 30 healthy male university students performed 3 maximal voluntary contractions of the neck musculature in each of the following directions: extension (Ext), flexion (Flx), left (LtFlx), and right lateral flexion (RtFlx). To evaluate the reliability of these measures intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) were calculated. The findings revealed a significant effect for direction (p<0.01), where Ext (234.8N) tested stronger than Flx (141.0N), LtFlx (134.5N) and RtFlx (123.0N). Additionally flexion tested stronger than RtFlx (p= 0.03). No other differences were observed between LtFlx and RtFlx. When the combined means of the trials (1: 151.6N, 2: 160.0N, 3: 163.5N) and the interaction contrast were compared these were not significant (p= 0.08-1.0), indicating no changes in peak force occurred over the 3 trials. The ICC values for Ext, RtFlx, and LtFlx were all ‘excellent’ (0.91-0.94), while Flx demonstrated ‘good’ reliability (0.86). In a simulated contact posture, a reliable measure of peak force was obtained using a single maximal contraction. This may have practical applications for the quick and reliable assessment of contact sport athletes in a position that has functional relevance to their sports.

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