Athletes often have neck pain, yet we do not always understand the effect it has on performance. BioMed Central Musculoskeletal Disorders Journal, “Evidence for a general stiffening motor control pattern in neck pain: a cross sectional study.”, describes how neck pain can affect us in many ways. Athletes need to play at a high level and they, as well as their coaches must be in tune to its effect on the execution of skill.
Neck pain effects flexibility and ‘conjunct motion’. Flexibility or range of motion is associated with mobility – conjunct motion is the smooth timed transitions that our musculature makes to perform movements. Pain inhibits the underlying passages of muscle-to-muscle contractions, which effects how our skeletal system operates. A simple test administered by researchers is to have subjects with neck issues stand on a balance pad versus healthy individuals performing the same task. Those with neck problems have more difficulty with motor control and maintaining posture.
There are other adverse problems associated with neck pain that effect performance, such as slower neck movement velocity, increased head steadiness and more rigid trajectory of head motion patterns.
When an athlete receives neck trauma they must get treatment from the trainer with regularity and make sure their neck strength also returns to it’s original level. There is more musculature than ‘degrees of freedom’ in the head and neck region. Degrees of freedom represents our ability to move our head and neck in all the various ways that we normally can. Having more muscle than degrees of freedom allows for substitution of the injured musculature by other groups of head and neck muscles to perform the same movement – but not quite as well. When an athlete returns-to-play even though only experiencing minor degrees of pain athleticism may be less then optimal. Like any region in the body each muscle must heal and regain strength so that we are no longer substituting and have normal conjunct motion.
Keep accurate records on the Pendulum 4 and 5 Way Head and Neck machine and if an athlete is ever injured make sure they can return to their previous levels of strength – Get Strong and Keep Strong.