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Aviat Space Environ Med. 2013 Oct;84(10):1046-54.

Exercise therapy for improved neck muscle function in helicopter aircrew.

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Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, University of Regina, Regina, SK, Canada.



To address the high prevalence of neck dysfunction in helicopter aircrew, a 12-wk training program was designed to examine the effects on neck muscular strength and endurance.


Subjects were recruited from Canadian Forces (CF) helicopter aircrew and randomized into either a neck coordination training program (CTP; N = 10), an endurance training program (ETP; N = 11), or a nontreatment control (CON; N = 8). Baseline assessments determined maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) strength and endurance capacity using a submaximal contraction to fatigue at 70% of their MVC for extension, flexion, and left (Ltflx) and right (Rtflx) lateral flexion. The ETP subjects performed dynamic contractions at 30% of their MVC in the four testing directions using a head harness and Thera-band tubing. The CTP consisted of exercises that focused on strengthening the deep cervical musculature using the mass of the head as resistance and progressing to exercises that incorporated the superficial cervical muscles.


Post-intervention, the ETP achieved the only statistically significant increase in maximal force when compared to the CON (14.4%). Improved times to fatigue were achieved by the CTP for flexion (26.34 +/- 20.72 s), Ltflx (23.54 +/- 13.94 s), and Rtflx (28.72 +/- 4.88 s).


The provision of an ETP and CTP resulted in a positive trend toward improved maximal force and muscular endurance. The greatest improvements in endurance and strength were found for those subjects assigned to the CTP treatment. Our research demonstrates the importance of including a designed and supervised training program into the daily routine of helicopter aviators.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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