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Neck pain can be quite common in MMA, grappling sports, and wresting. A big reason can be simply over reliance on the neck and inefficiency of the extensor system and trunk stabilizers.
Once an athlete learns to improve how their body works as a system, tissue and joint stress reduce and performance efficiency will be almost immediately noticed. Especially if they have keen body awareness.
Often times when there is a strength problem, the recommendation is to isolate that area and train it. In this case, the thinking was to strengthen the neck by using a neck harness. Now while local tissue strength and resilience is absolutely important, the problem in this case is that solving what can be perceived as a "lack of strength issue" isn't always solved by isolation training.
This athlete needed to learn to use his body as a complete system to better support his neck and enable him to express the strength that he already has. His over reliance on the neck was causing accumulation of stress on the neck, leading to his neck feeling pretty jacked up week after week of grappling.
Neck pain and tightness was become a recurrent issue for him. He was developing a pattern of having to take time off every couple weeks because his neck just couldn't handle the stress anymore. Rest did enough to reduce the presence of symptoms such as tightness and pain, but rest isn't doing anything to solve the underlying problem that is feeding his pain - lack of awareness of how to use his body as a system to reduce neck pain and improve performance. If an athlete is never taught how to efficiency use their body, then there will be breakdowns in the system at some point.
Avoid the breakdowns as best as possible by developing keen body awareness and how to use the body as system, not as isolated parts.
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