Injury-Reduction Programs Containing Neuromuscular Neck Exercises and the Incidence of Soccer-Related Head and Neck Injuries

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Journal of athletic training


CONTEXT: Concern is growing among soccer players, coaches, and parents regarding head and neck injuries, including concussion, particularly from heading a ball. Thus, we need to explore soccer-specific head injury risk-reduction initiatives. One such initiative is to condition the neck musculature of young players by adding neuromuscular neck exercises to existing injury-reduction exercise programs. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of neuromuscular neck exercises completed as part of an injury risk-reduction exercise program on the incidence of soccer-related head and neck injuries in adolescent soccer players. DESIGN: Prospective cohort study. SETTING: Two sports high schools and 6 soccer clubs during the 2021 soccer season. PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: A total of 364 male and female soccer players, aged 12 to 18 years. INTERVENTION(S): Members of 1 sports high school and 2 soccer clubs performed neuromuscular neck exercises as part of an injury-reduction program during training (neck training group). Members of another sports high school and 4 soccer clubs performed an injury-reduction program but without neck exercises (comparison group). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Self-reported injury data were collected from each player at the end of the season and used to calculate incidence rate ratios (IRRs) with 95% CIs. RESULTS: In total, 364 players completed the study, including 146 players in the neck training group and 218 players in the comparison group. Despite players in the neck training group being less likely to self-report a concussion (IRR = 0.23; 95% CI = 0.03, 1.04) and pain on heading a ball (IRR = 0.62; 95% CI = 0.34, 1.07), only a lower incidence of possible concussive events (IRR = 0.38; 95% CI = 0.14, 0.90; P < .05) was significant. CONCLUSIONS: Integrating neuromuscular neck exercises into injury-reduction exercise programs has the potential to reduce the risk of adolescent soccer players sustaining a possible concussive event, concussion, or pain on heading a ball.

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