Background Rugby Union, a popular full-contact sport played throughout the world, has one of the highest rates of concussion of all full-contact sports. Concussion is the most commonly reported injury in rugby matches with 17% of professional players sustaining a concussion in a given season. Cervical muscle strengthening is often included in concussion rehabilitation and/or prevention protocols however the cervical strength profiles of elite rugby players are currently unknown.
Objective To describe the preseason isometric cervical strength profiles of peak strength and endurance, in elite professional male rugby players, categorised by playing position.
Design Cross-sectional study measuring isometric peak and endurance cervical strength.
Setting Elite rugby players from four professional Irish teams that compete at the highest level of competition in Ireland and Europe.
Patients (or Participants) Elite male rugby players (n=136).
Interventions (or Assessment of Risk Factors) The association between isometric strength and playing position, age, height and weight was investigated.
Main Outcome Measurements Multidirectional cervical strength was measured using a standardised isometric endurance test and a novel isometric ‘make’ test.
Results In total, 136 players participated in this study, including front row forwards (27%), other forwards (28%) and backs (45%). The average time for the endurance tests were 55.7 seconds and 52.9 seconds for extension and flexion respectively, with no statistically significant differences between playing positions.
Peak isometric strength was significantly greater in extension (429N ± 104N) than side flexion (left, 306N ± 73N; right, 308 ±70) across all position groups; isometric flexion (275N ± 65N) was the weakest. Age was associated with increased isometric strength.
Conclusions This study provides normative values for peak and endurance isometric strength in professional rugby players. Differences between playing positions for peak strength highlights the importance of stratifying scores in accordance to position. Pre-season testing of isometric cervical strength may aid in return to play decisions following concussion.
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