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Open Access Research article

Cervical isometric strength and range of motion of elite rugby union players: a cohort study

David F Hamilton1* and Don Gatherer2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics, University of Edinburgh, Chancellor’s Building, 49 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh EH164SB, UK

2 Gatherer (Physiotherapy Limited), Tudor House, Aylesbury, UK

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BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 2014, 6:32  doi:10.1186/2052-1847-6-32

Published: 31 July 2014



Head and neck injury is relatively common in Rugby Union. Despite this, strength and range-of-motion characteristics of the cervical spine are poorly characterised. The aim of this study was to provide data on the strength and range-of-motion of the cervical spine of professional rugby players to guide clinical rehabilitation.


A cohort study was performed evaluating 27 players from a single UK professional rugby club. Cervical isometric strength and range-of-motion were assessed in 3 planes of reference. Anthropometric data was collected and multivariate regression modelling performed with a view to predicting cervical isometric strength.


Largest forces were generated in extension, with broadly equal isometric side flexion forces at around 90% of extension values. The forwards generated significantly more force than the backline in all parameters bar flexion. The forwards had substantially reduced cervical range-of-motion and larger body mass, with differences observed in height, weight, neck circumference and chest circumference (p < 0.002). Neck circumference was the sole predictor of isometric extension (adjusted R2 = 30.34).


Rehabilitative training programs aim to restore individuals to pre-injury status. This work provides reference ranges for the strength and range of motion of the cervical spine of current elite level rugby players.

Rugby; Cervical spine; Strength; Range of motion