Neck proprioception, strength, flexibility, and posture in pilots with and without neck pain history.
INTRODUCTION: Neck pain (NP) is common among military helicopter pilots. Older age and more flight-hours have been associated with pilots with a history of NP. However, modifiable neuromuscular and musculoskeletal characteristics such as neck proprioception, strength, flexibility, and posture have rarely been investigated in military helicopter pilots with a history of NP. The purpose of the study was to compare demographics, flight characteristics, physical fitness information, neck proprioception, strength, flexibility, and posture between helicopter pilots with and without a history of NP. METHODS: A total of 27 Army helicopter pilots with NP in the past 12 mo (pain group) were matched based on age with pilots without a history of NP (nonpain group). All pilots had flown at least 100 h in the past 12 mo and were cleared for flight and physical training. All pilots completed a battery of laboratory testing: neck proprioception, neck and scapular muscular strength, neck active range-of-motion (ROM), forward head and shoulder posture, and pectoralis minor length. Paired t-tests or Wilcoxon tests were used to compare differences between groups. RESULTS: The pain group had significantly less cervical extension (63.7 +/- 8.5 degrees) and rotation ROM (R rotation: 67.7 +/- 8.8 degrees; L rotation: 67.4 +/- 9.0 degrees) when compared to the nonpain group (extension: 68.3 +/- 7.4 degrees; R rotation: 73.4 +/- 7.4 degrees; L rotation: 72.9 +/- 6.8 degrees). No significant differences were found for other variables. CONCLUSION: The results demonstrate less neck active ROM in pilots with a history of NP. Operating a helicopter with limited neck ROM or NP may negatively impact flight safety and force readiness. Continued research is warranted.
Nagai, T; Abt, JP; Sell, TC; Clark, NC; Smalley, BW; Wirt, MD; Lephart, SM
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