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Neck Strength Profile Comparison of University and Professional Rugby Union Players / JOSHUA MOORE

Swansea University Author: JOSHUA MOORE

Abstract

Neck strength plays a crucial role in preventing concussion, cervical spine injury, and neck pain.owever, the absence of a standardised methodology to assess neck strength and a lack of reliable normative data within rugby union poses significant challenges.This cross-sectional study aimed to compar...

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Published: Swansea University, Wales, UK 2024
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Master of Research
Degree name: MSc by Research
Supervisor: Williams, E. M. P.
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa66953
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Abstract: Neck strength plays a crucial role in preventing concussion, cervical spine injury, and neck pain.owever, the absence of a standardised methodology to assess neck strength and a lack of reliable normative data within rugby union poses significant challenges.This cross-sectional study aimed to compare neck strength between playing levels and positions while establishing anthropometric relationships using the innovative Isometric Neck Strength Testing Apparatus (INSTA). Professional (n=47) and university (n=25) male rugby players participated in maximal isometric neck contractions, evaluating flexion, extension, and lateral flexion strength. Results showed that professional players exhibited significantly greater flexion and extension neck strength compared to university players, while lateral flexion strength remained similar between levels. Forwards consistently outperformed backs, likely due to increased involvement in contact events such as scrums, rucks, and mauls. Notably, front-row players displayed the highest neck strength across all directions. Body mass demonstrated a positive correlation with strength in all directions and positions, while extension strength displayed a weak correlation with age across groups. Height did not show any significant correlation with strength.The INSTA provided a repeatable method to assess neck strength. Comparative analyses unveiled strength trends among playing positions and levels, shedding light on positional requirements and neck strength profiles across different playing levels. Front-row players exhibited specific neck strength adaptations, whereas backs displayed the lowest neck strength measures.This study marks the initial steps in gathering repeatable neck strength data, which can contribute to neck rehabilitation, targeted neck strengthening programs, and identifying player requirements for advancing through playing levels.Continued normative data collection using reliable and repeatable methods like the INSTA can help optimise neck conditioning programs and screening processes. While this study revealed neck strength trends within rugby-playing populations, further research is necessary to conclusively determine neck strength requirements in the future.
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Keywords: Rugby Union, Neck Strength, Neck Strength Assessment, Professional, University, INSTA
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering