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Head Acceleration in Men’s University Rugby Union and the Effect of Neck Strength Training / THOMAS PENNINGTON

Swansea University Author: THOMAS PENNINGTON

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Abstract

There is increasing concern regarding concussion and exposure to repeated head impacts in rugby union due to the associated long-term health consequences. To date, measurement systems associated with a high degree of measurement error have been utilised to research head impacts. Moreover, increases...

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Published: Swansea 2022
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Master of Research
Degree name: MSc by Research
Supervisor: Williams, Elisabeth M.P ; Mackintosh, Kelly A. ; McNarry, Melitta A.
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa59108
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Abstract: There is increasing concern regarding concussion and exposure to repeated head impacts in rugby union due to the associated long-term health consequences. To date, measurement systems associated with a high degree of measurement error have been utilised to research head impacts. Moreover, increases in neck strength have been shown to reduce the risk of concussion risk. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the relationship between neck strength and head acceleration in Rugby Union players. Maximum isometric strength data were collected from 27 male university rugby players at the start of the competitive season and following neck-specific resistance training completed throughout the season. The training programme was completed two times per week and consisted of deep neck stabiliser exercises, weighted isometric training, and dynamic resistance training. The bespoke isometric apparatus utilised four, 150 kg load cells, measuring neck strength in flexion, extension, and left and right lateral flexion. Linear and rotational head acceleration data were recorded throughout the season using mouthguards that were instrumented with a nine-axis inertial motion unit and an additional triaxial accelerometer. The neck strength training programme resulted in improvements in all outcome parameters (5.5 – 18.8%), with significant improvements for all, except extension (p < 0.05). A median (IQR) of 13 g (11 - 18 g) and 849 rad•s-2 (642 - 1,115 rad•s-2) were observed for peak linear and rotational acceleration, respectively. Results revealed that participants with greater neck strength experienced lower head acceleration values throughout the season (p <0.05). The neck-specific training programme was effective in increasing isometric neck strength. The head acceleration values recorded in the current thesis were substantially lower than those previously recorded. Findings indicate that increasing neck strength may be effective in reducing head inertial load experienced during rugby matches.
Keywords: Neck strength, Head acceleration, Concussion, Brain injury, Rugby, Rugby Union, Neck strength training
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering