Six Nations- Survival Guide to Rugby Injuries

It’s that time of year again where we dust off our rugby shirts and crowd around to jostle for space in front of the TV/head to the pub to cheer on our teams in the Six Nations. Rugby is such an exciting, fast-paced sport that demands players to balance physicality and controlled aggression with flare, grace and tactical skill. Given the physical nature of the game and the passion that it is played with, it is almost inevitable that anyone who plays Rugby will sustain an injury of some kind at some point in their career. It has been reported that Rugby injury rates are nearly 3 times higher than Football injuries. So, I’m here with a brief guide to some of the most common Rugby injuries and what you can do to reduce your chances of getting them.

STRAINS, SPRAINS & BRUISES:

Nearly half of all Rugby injuries are damage, of some kind, to a muscle. Muscle tears (strains) occur when a muscle is pushed beyond a point it is not happy to go. As you can imagine, this is often quite likely during a Rugby match. A muscle strain can range from a sensation of stiffness and mild discomfort to severe pain and an inability to continue playing. Strains will often be accompanied by swelling and bruising at the site of injury but the bruising may take several days to appear. If you suspect that you have sustained a muscle strain, the best management is to stop playing and compress the injured muscle with an elastic bandage, elevate the limb or injured area and get some ice on it as quickly as possible. This will help to limit swelling and bruising and possibly speed up your recovery.

Damage to ligaments, known as a sprain, is the second most common Rugby injury. Lower limb sprains tend to occur more than upper limb. Ankle sprains account for almost 1 in 7 Rugby injuries. Ligaments help to support your joints and similar to muscles don’t appreciate being pushed beyond a certain limit. When they are, a sprain occurs and can range from a mild discomfort to sever pain that stops you playing. The management for a ligament sprain is much the same as for an injured muscle. However, the recovery time can be considerably longer.

FRACTURES & DISLOCATIONS:

In younger Rugby players (10-18 years old) 35% of Rugby injuries are fractures. 24% of these are fractures of the collarbone (Clavicle). I have seen lots of these in clinic and they generally tend to happen when a Rugby player falls over landing on out stretched hand. The force is transmitted up the arm, the Clavicle takes the brunt of the stress and breaks. This is very painful and often results in a hospital visit to determine the extent of the damage with an X-Ray.

Dislocations are less common but when they do occur they are more likely to occur at the Shoulder, elbow and thumbs.

WHO & WHEN?:

  • Flankers and Hookers are the most injury hit positions on the pitch.
  • You are more likely to get injured during a match than you are in training.
  • Roughly 50% of injuries are sustained when a player is tackling an opponent or being tackled.

REDUCING YOUR INJURY RISK:

You can reduce your chance of getting injured by looking at certain aspects of your game, training and preparation but the fact of the matter is there are so many things beyond your control that you can never guarantee you won’t ever get injured. Unfortunately, that risk is just part and parcel of playing a physical, contact sport like Rugby. Here’s what I would advise you to do to minimize that risk:

  1. SOLID PRE-SEASON PREP: The vast majority of injuries occur at the start of the season when we are feeling our way back into the speed and physicality of the game. Make sure you prepare well with the correct fitness and strength training. This needs to balanced out with maintaining good muscle flexibility and good joint mobility.
  2. WARM UP. PROPERLY: A decent warm up needs to consist of some moderate cardiovascular exercise (jogging, cycling etc) which should leave you out of breath and feeling warm…. Also, it’s important to do some active or dynamic stretches (with movement) that replicate the kinds of movements you will likely be doing during the game. For Rugby, this is going to include movements like lunging, lunging with trunk rotation, shoulder circles etc.
  3. RECOVER WELL: Apply ice to any knocks, bruises, sore bits after the game. Do some static stretches (where you hold the stretch statically for up to 30 seconds). Rehydrate yourself adequately. Make sure you incorporate at least one rest day from matches and training each week to allow your body to recover sufficiently.
  4. WORK ON TECHNIQUE: During training, work on tackling technique. Most injuries are sustained when tackled or being tackled.

This is just a very brief overview of the most common Rugby injuries with some simplified advise basic tips you can employ to reduce your injury risk. If you have sustained a Rugby injury recently or have an old one that’s just not going away, why not come in and see one of us at the clinic for some advice and treatment. Lastly, COME ON ENGLAND!!

Leslie Abrahams

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