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Can a single game of rugby cause long term neck damage?
Only in professional sport could somebody be described as old by the age of 30, writes David Cooper (Sure Health Chiropractic).
The demands of playing sport to a high level mean that athletes age much quicker than us “mere mortals”.
Throughout the many twists, jolts, and lunges of a career micro-traumas accumulate, resulting in early wear and tear of joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
But the cumulative effects of one sport are far in excess of almost all others.
This author is of the opinion that rugby (of either code before you start!) has a greater long term impact on players' health than virtually any other sport played in this country.
Moreover, there is strong evidence to back this up. Studies have shown increased incidence of early osteoarthritis, increased prevalence of knee and shoulder surgery, as well as generally reduced ranges of movement throughout the body.
One area of the body that is severely affected by playing rugby over many years is the cervical spine. The result of a long playing career is cervical spondylosis (arthritis) and associated increased stiffness, both of which are worse if you play in the forwards.
While this is not necessarily a surprise, some studies have shown that even one game of rugby is enough to cause damage leading to reduced range of motion in the neck.
Results show generally decreased neck movement amongst all positions, but with more specific reductions depending on the position a player plays.
The recommendations following these studies are that, in order to preserve the health and function of the cervical spine, all players should receive treatment to their neck after a game, and cervical muscle training should be implemented as part of their gym routine.