Neck mechanics is central to head injury prevention since it is the musculoskeletal neck, which dictates the position and movement of the head. In the US, traumatic injury is the leading cause of death for children; however prevention is hampered by the lack of data concerning the mechanics of the immature head-and-neck. Thus, the objective of this study was to quantify neck muscle strength and endurance across the maturation spectrum and correlate these with head-and-neck anthropometry. A factorial study was performed on 91 human subjects measuring head-and-neck anthropometry and neck strength and endurance in three bending directions (flexion, extension, and lateral) as a function of age (6–23 years). Using a custom device, neck maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) force was measured in triplicate. Next, neck muscle endurance (sustained effort) was measured as the subjects' ability to maintain 70% of peak force over 30 s. Linear regression of peak force and endurance as a function of age revealed each direction to significantly (p<0.0001) increase with age. The MVC force, averaged across all directions and normalized to the adult values, exhibits the following maturation curve: %MVC Force=−0.0879(age)²+6.018(age)+8.120. Neck muscle strength, similar between young males and females, becomes disparate in adolescence and adulthood with males exhibiting greater strength. Bending direction differences were also found with extension strength being the greatest regardless of age and sex. Furthermore, neck circumference appears predictive of neck strength and endurance in children. Together, these relationships may facilitate improved design of injury prevention interventions.
Keywords: Biomechanics; Cervical spine; Neck muscle strength; Children