Functional Anatomy Research Center (FARC), Laboratorio di Anatomia Funzionale dell’Apparato Locomotore
(LAFAL), Dipartimento di Morfologia Umana e Scienze Biomediche “Città Studi”, Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia,
Università Degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.
Background: The active range of motion of human cervical spine naturally changes during lifetime; sport practice may
also modify cervical range of motion.
Purpose: To investigate the effect of rugby league practice and age on active cervical range of motion.
Study Design: Descriptive laboratory study.
Methods: Active cervical range of motion was quantified in 34 Rugby League players and 70 healthy control men (adolescents,
15-16 years; young adults, 19-25 years; adults, 31-45 years) using an optoelectronic motion analyser. Principal plane movements
(flexion-extension, axial rotation, lateral bending) and concomitant out-of-plane motions were computed, and compared by
factorial analyses of variance.
Results: Aging significantly reduced active cervical flexion-extension (from adolescence to adult age: about 15° in control
participants, 21° in rugby players) and lateral bending (from adolescence to adult age: about 6° in control participants, 17° in
rugby players). A trend in motion reduction was observed for axial rotation. Significant reductions were found for concomitant
movements in other planes. Rugby league practice significantly modified active cervical lateral bending: during adolescence and
young adulthood it had a beneficial effect, increasing the range of motion of 8-11°, but after the third decade of life the effect
reversed. Some differences were observed also for concomitant out-of-plane movements.
Conclusions: Both aging and rugby practice significantly modified active cervical range of motion.
Clinical Relevance: The non-invasive assessment of active cervical movements may identify the players with altered neck
mobility, and who may potentially be at larger risk for damages. They might benefit from specific cervical muscle training.