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  • Writer's pictureLyndsey Harwood

Rugby's injury problem

You only have to watch rugby for five minutes to realise the potential injury problems that come with playing a full contact sport

Did you know?

  • The hooker (No.2) is the most injured player on the field, accounting for 26% of all rugby injuries

  • The No. 1 shirt suffers more shoulder injuries than any other players

  • The No. 3 shirt ranks highest in the ankle injury charts

  • The No. 10 shirt suffers the most concussions

Rugby is a fast-moving, high-intensity, full contact team sport. It’s played by both men and women at all levels and is regarded as one of the most physically enduring sports in the world. The very nature of the game involving players running at velocity alongside regular collisions through tackling, means the sport also boasts a high injury rate. with as many as 1 in 4 players being injured during a rugby season, three times higher than those of football.

The most frequent cause of injuries are down to tackling, rucking or mauling, with the average player performing between 20-40 tackles per game. The highest number of injuries are muscle strains and muscle bruises (also known as contusions) which account for more than 40% of injuries. They are closely followed by sprains to ligaments, which account for 30% of injuries, and then by dislocations, fractures, lacerations and overuse injuries. Hamstrings, ankles, head, shoulders and fingers all being regular victims on the rugby injury list.

In fact you can check out our quick reference guide to rugby injuries which includes some guidance on treatment, rehabilitation and most importantly, prevention.

“One in four players are on average injured during a regular rugby season. Three times higher than that of football.”

It is particularly important that injuries to players are managed well in order to prevent the problems becoming more serious. Injuries in some athletes can be trivialised, with the athlete being told to ‘toughen up’ and ‘play through the pain’, this is rarely in their best interests. If often instead leads to delayed injury healing or return to sport, and can turn an easily-treatable injury into one that becomes difficult. In some cases it can result in serious permanent injury that stops the young player from playing altogether.

The 5 most common rugby injuries include:

  • ACL Injury (one-third of players give up the game after this injury, don’t be one of them)

  • Ankle sprains (which account for 1 in 7 rugby injuries)

  • Meniscus injury (commonly associated with other knee injuries)

  • Head injuries (of which 44% are concussions)

  • Muscle and contusion Injuries (make up 40% of all rugby injuries)

Top tips for minimising injuries

It is particularly important therefore to manage injuries responsibly, young or old. The key to keeping injuries at bay are as follows:

  • Always play at your own intensity and pace - you know your body best.

  • Which is point number two - listen to your body. Sometimes you need to be pushed but you know when it's too far, so listen to the warning signs

  • Make sure you follow a proper pre-season training programme so you can start getting in shape a month or so before the season and contact training is due to begin

  • Place emphasis on the importance of stretching and flexibility exercises, starting core stability and postural exercises to build your muscles and keep them supple. The core is particularly important

  • Work on your posture. Poor posture can be exacerbated by rugby stresses and the game plays on areas of weakness

  • Ensure you do your research and help others to practise safe tackling and scrumming techniques

  • Regular massage to relieve pain, treat muscle spasm and improve joint mobility to keep your muscles performing at their best

  • If you do feel pain or think you have an injury, seek out an assessment as soon as possible as the sooner you start treatment the better the outcome.

  • Listen to your therapist's advice - don't go back to early as this can often lead to the injured area being damaged further putting you out of the game for even longer.

Free detailed advice

We have a range of free advice leaflets as well as exercise handouts on all the most common rugby injuries, including advice on how to prevent as well as treat them reducing the risk of injury by as much as 51% in some cases. You can download all the leaflets here and include: knee, meniscus, ACL, neck, dislocated shoulder, lower back pain and ankle.

A biomechanical assessment can determine what is weak or tight, rotated in or out, flat or sluggish. In sport, no muscle or joint moves in isolation, it requires a very well-conducted and orchestrated collaboration between the brain, nerves, your eyes and ears, limbs and trunk with any one component being out of tune disrupting the melody and causing injury. Be proactive and address any imbalances prior to sustaining an injury. Prevention is definitely better than a cure.



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