Training Time: Neck Sprain


Training Time with Max Benton

Max Benton is the Cavaliers Athletic Trainer and tends to the immediate medical needs of the team’s players. Most of his duties center around preventative medicine, treatment, and rehabilitation.

This information should not be used as diagnosis of a particular condition and is intended only to be informative. If you are experiencing symptoms of any kind, please consult a doctor.


Neck sprains and strains are sometimes a side effect of rigorous athletic activity (with contact) or in some cases, car accidents. Neck sprains produce similar symptoms as whiplash and those symptoms can extend to the head, shoulders, arms, and back.


There are seven bones of the spinal column in your neck called cervical vertebrae. Each are connected to one another by ligaments, and a sprain occurs when they are stretched or torn beyond their ability to flex.


As stated, a neck sprain can occur, for example, from a hard fall in a contact sport such as football, or from being involved in a car accident. The sports with the highest likelihood of neck sprain are football, wrestling, diving, gymnastics, and auto racing. Neck sprains can also be the result of a ligament sprain or muscle strain.


Symptoms will vary depending on the severity of sprain. You may experience some or all of the following:

  • Pain, especially in the back of the neck, that worsens with movement
  • Pain that peaks a day or two following the injury, instead of immediately after
  • Muscle spasms and pain in the upper regions of the shoulder
  • Headache in the rear of the head
  • Sore throat
  • Numbness in the arms or hands
  • Increased irritability or fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping or difficulty concentrating
  • Stiffness or decreased range of motion (side to side, up and down, circular)
  • Tingling or weakness in the arms


    When you see your physician, he or she will perform a physical exam and will likely order CT scans, X-rays, or an MRI.

    Treatment for sprains and strains is basically the same anywhere you get them in your body. Sprains and strains will heal, in time, if they are given the right treatment.

    You may wear a soft cervical collar to help support the head and relieve pressure on the neck, so the ligaments can heal properly. You’ll want to ice 15 to 30 minutes, several times a day, for the first two to three days after an injury, which will help reduce inflammation and discomfort. Taking ibuprofen or aspirin will help reduce swelling and pain. In addition, you may want to look into getting a massage on the affected area to speed up healing time and to reduce some pain.