Neck muscles, although often overlooked, are important for athletes. In addition to moving the head to react to a play, they also stabilize the head during a crushing tackle or body check. Baltimore Ravens strength coach Jeff Friday says, "The neck muscles must be able to move the head quickly and brace for blocks and tackling."
When a player absorbs a crushing blow, his head snaps backward violently, resulting in a potential neck injury—such as whiplash—or even a concussion. Concussions are a rising concern for athletes in all sports, so it's important to do all you can to prevent them [watch STACK's Concussion Awareness Series here].
Performing neck exercises in multiple directions helps create balanced supporting strength around the neck, enabling the muscles to reduce the effect of a blow. Although they are not the total solution to preventing neck and head injuries—proper equipment and following playing rules are also contributors—neck exercises in an athlete's training programs can help keep him off the disabled list.
Neck strength workouts typically include moving the head against resistance, often supplied by a partner. The videos above show examples.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock