Context

There is growing concern among soccer players, coaches and parents regarding head and neck injuries, including concussion, particularly from heading a ball. Thus, creating a 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 into existing injury reduction exercise programs.

Objectives

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 (12–18 years) soccer players.

Design

Prospective Cohort Study

Setting

Two sports high School and six soccer clubs

Participants

n=364 male and female soccer players, aged 12–18 years

Intervention

We targeted one sports high school and two soccer clubs who completed neuromuscular neck exercises contained within an injury reduction program during training (Neck Training Group) as well as another sports high school and four soccer clubs who completed an injury reduction program but without neck exercise (Comparison Group) during the 2021 soccer season.

Main Outcome Measure

Self-reported injury data were collected from each player at the end of the season and used to calculate incidence rate ratios (IRR) with 95% confidence intervals (95%CI).

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 (incidence rate ratio (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 lower incidence of potential concussive events (IRR:0.38 (95%CI 0.14–0.90); p<0.05) was significant.

Conclusion

Integrating neuromuscular neck exercises into injury reduction exercise programs has the potential to reduce the risk of sustaining a potential concussive event, concussion and/or pain on heading a ball in adolescent soccer players.

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