Effects of a single game of rugby on the cervical spine

28th February 2012 - Effects of a single game of rugby on the cervical spine

With the Six Nations on the telly and the Super League starting again, it seemed like a good time to post an article about sports injuries. More specifically cumulative rugby injuries involving the neck.

It goes without saying that Rugby (of both codes!) is a very physical game. The result of repeated contact is significant wear and tear, with loss of mobility, arthritis, and general aches being inevitable. The knees, low back, and neck are most often affected. However, what is interesting in recent research shows that just one game of rugby can significantly decrease the range of motion of the cervical spine, or neck.

A study on both professional and amateur rugby union players demonstrated that after a single game players from all positions had decreased neck movement. Greatest losses of mobility occurred in front row forwards as one might expect but, perhaps more surprisingly, centres were also amongst those most affected.

It also seems some of this movement loss is permanent, at least for athletes playing regularly, getting worse with increase playing frequency. Although some movement returned over the off-season, complete mobility was never regained.

The recommendations of the researchers following this study was that all rugby players, regardless of playing level, should partake upon a cervical muscle strengthening routine throughout the year to try and protect themselves from damage. The researchers also recommend that players should receive treatment immediately after playing in order to minimise movement loss. Increasingly professional and amateur teams are turning to chiropractors as essential components of their medical set-up.