Rugby injuries are definitely the ‘big daddy’ in the world of sports, coming in three times higher than those incurred in soccer, for example. That is likely due to the nature of the game. It is without a doubt a high-intensity, fast-moving and much-loved sport.

Injuries notwithstanding, the key to regaining optimum fitness is about knowing how to manage rugby injuries by getting the right treatment at the right time.

Rugby Injuries Fact File 

Being such an obvious contact sport, injuries to the musculoskeletal system are very common.  The upper body bears the brunt as players either run up against each other or hit the ground. Spinal cord injury is thankfully rare. But sprains and strains, dislocations and concussions are par for the course.

The average player executes 20 – 40 tackles per match! The stats have it that 1 in 4 rugby players will be injured during any given season.

What is concerning to orthopaedics is the high instance of rugby injuries experienced by the youth; 10 – 18-year-olds, specifically. 355 of their injuries are fractures, 24% of which occur to the clavicle.   In a similar vein, 25 – 34-year-old adults are also considered at high risk of injury. That leaves a small window for 19 – 24-year-olds who appear to escape the worst.

Which Player Positions Sustain the Most Rugby Injuries?

  • Fullbacks, backs, wings and centres are at high risk of injury
  • Forwards are more frequently injured than backs though because they’re more involved in the tackles and physical collisions
  • Flankers and hookers are known to sustain the most injuries of all positions
  • In scrums, the locks are at risk of facial cuts and the classic ‘cauliflower-ear’ from repeated blows.
  • In rucks and mauls, finger and thumb injuries present along with lacerations and abrasions from cleats

What are the Most Common Injuries?

Falling into two basic categories, injuries may either due to a single traumatic injury or the kind of damage overuse can bring. While injuries may wide and varied, in the big picture, there are three common instances that usually require orthopaedic intervention or rehabilitative assistance.

  • Ankles – the constant stop-start, and twists and turns executed at high speed and the adrenalin rush of the moment, cause ligaments and muscles to become overstretched. Awkward landings, continuous leaps and bounds, all exact a heavy toll on the ankles.
  • Knees – the four knee ligaments keep the three knee bones in place. Rugby injuries occur to the knees during tackles or clumsy falls and ligament injuries are very common. 
  • Shoulders – dislocations are common. There is plenty of direct stress placed on the shoulder joint in tackles and for try scores. 

Calling the Sports Medicine Specialist

  • Dislocations – cannot be left unattended. If the arm is dislocated and rotates outward, an on-site paramedic may ‘pop’ it back into place but due to the strong possibility of associated injuries like fractures or torn ligaments, for example, specialist attention should be paid to rugby injuries of this nature
  • Concussion – is always serious, no matter what the player may say. Concussion may be present without a person needing to be knocked out cold. Warning indications such as memory lapse, dizziness, balance problems and headaches should be noted. 
  • Sprains and Strains – 1 in 7 players will sustain ankle injuries. Over a period, if these become repeat injuries, specialist attention is needed to help rebuild mobility and strength. Surgery is sometimes a necessary procedure in some cases.

Preventing Rugby Injuries 

Pre-season preparation goes a long way to preventing injuries. Most injuries are known to occur at the start of the season.  A conditioning program should increase both in duration and intensity to prepare athletes for the game. 

Understanding correct falling techniques and methods that lessen or absorb impact force should be worked through. 

There’s a technique called ‘Depowering the Scrum whereby props crouch, touch and pause before they engage. Sequential Engagement is another option where the front rows engage before the second-row joins in. 

Maintaining ankle strength and flexibility helps lower the risk of spraining. Taping methods can be applied if there is a vulnerability or a previous injury. 

Strengthening the quads, hamstrings and glutes will give support to the knees. Agility and cutting drills need to be part of the pre-season training.

Focusing on strengthening the shoulder’s rotator cuff does ward odd the imbalances that predispose shoulders to injury.

Applying best practice to the captivating game of rugby with pre-season training will be a player’s best shot at preventing rugby injuries during the season.

For more information call your nearest practice.

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