Do Former Pro Rugby Players Have Greater Cervical Spine Degeneration?
Research recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine explored whether retired professional rugby players experience more serious symptoms of cervical spine degeneration compared to people in the general population. By comparing 101 men who were retired rugby players and 85 volunteers who never participated in the sport, researchers found that although the former rugby players reported more complaints of chronic neck pain and reduced neck mobility, there was no statistical difference in the level of pain reported by them and the level reported by the volunteers. MRI studies focused on anatomical signs of degeneration in the cervical spine as well as on the status of paraspinal muscles. The researchers reported that compared to volunteers in the control group, retired rugby players had significantly narrower vertebral canals and greater foraminal stenosis. When the researchers examined study participants’ musculature in the vicinity of the spine, they found that retired rugby players had significantly greater muscle mass (and less fat) than the volunteers. The researchers also hypothesized that the stronger paraspinal muscles found in former rugby players may aid in controlling the level of spinal pain in this group. “A few years after the end of their careers, professional rugby players seem to have more degenerative symptoms and lesions on the cervical spine. These symptoms are exceptionally disabling (3 of 101 cases in this study). Our definitive conclusion should be reasonably prudent; we still can’t assert that the lesions worsen with time or that the disease stabilizes with the end of the rugby activity,” said the study’s lead researcher. To read more about this study, click here.
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