3 Neck Drills for Athletes in Contact Sports

3 Neck Drills for Athletes in Contact Sports

3 Neck Drills for Athletes in Contact Sports

Written by Dr. Matt Wiest, DC

Concussion awareness has grown in the last 3-5 years but we still aren’t doing a great job preventing the damage that can be done due to head collisions in sports. Our cervical spines are not equipped to absorb any collision let alone unexpected collisions at high speeds. Rules are starting to change in certain sports but the repetitive contact isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so we need to do everything we can do build strength in the ligaments and muscles responsible for shock absorption not only for preventing injuries but also for improving athletic performance.

Deep neck muscles like the SCM, longus colli, longus capitus and the scalene group are responsible for building stability, controlling movement and reacting to unanticipated forces, the same muscles that are typically inhibited during prolonged time at a desk, computer or on our devices. So a typical student athlete will spend 4-8 hours in an anterior head position (in relation to the trunk) with their deep neck inhibited, and then jump onto the field and those same muscles are expected to support the cervical spine through multi-directional blows of varying speeds and intensities. Time to show those deep neck flexors some love; the following are great isometric progressions that can be done to build strength in these muscles.

Exercises:

Isometric Multi-Directional Hold, Partner Resistance

  • Have a partner put pressure against the side of your head; change the angle of the pressure with each set.
  • Hold pressure for 10-20 seconds, 2-3 sets in each direction.
  • Do an isometric hold in lateral flexion (both sides), flexion and extension.

Isometric Band-Resisted Hold

  • Place band around your head and step away from the anchor to a distance that creates minimal tension in the band.
  • Hold with neutral head position (under resistance) for 10-20 seconds, 2-3 sets in each direction.
  • For core involvement, do the isometric hold in a plank position, engaging your TVA and maintaining a neutral spine from head to pelvis.

Isometric Band-Resisted Walk with Variable Tension

  • Place band around your head and step away from the anchor to a distance that creates minimal tension in the band.
  • Once minimal tension is reached gradually progress away from the anchor to increase tension while maintaining a neutral head position.
  • Take 2-3 steps out, then slowly return back to the starting position, maintaining that minimal tension position.
  • Control movement away from the anchor and back 4-5 times in each direction.

References:

American College of Sports Medicine Position stand on progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002;34(2):364-380

Jull GA, O’Leary SP, Falla DL. Clinical assessment of the deep cervical flexor muscles: the craniocervical flexion test. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2008;31(7):525-533

Tsuyama, K. Yamamoto, Y. Nakazato, K. Nakajima, H. The effect of neck muscle training on the isometric cervical extension strength and cross-sectional area of the neck extensor muscles-combined training for neck extensor muscles using a cervical extension machine. . Japanese Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine. 55: 1- 5. 2006.

Original Article

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