The most frequent cervical injuries in athletes are probably acute strains and sprains of the musculature of the neck, as well as soft-tissue contusions. A strain refers to an injury to a muscle, occurring when a muscle-tendon unit is stretched or overloaded. Cervical muscles that are commonly strained include the sternocleidomastoid (SCM), the trapezius, the rhomboids, the erector spinae, the scalenes, and the levator scapulae. A sprain refers to a ligamentous injury, and the diagnosis of cervical sprain implies that the ligamentous and capsular structures connecting the cervical facet joints and vertebrae have been damaged. Practically, a cervical sprain may be difficult to differentiate from a strain, and the 2 injuries often occur simultaneously. Pain referred to the muscle can arise from any source that is modulated by the dorsal rami.
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