Rugby remains one of the nation's most loved sports, and if you're a keen player, you need to make sure that you're ready for the pitch.
Has there ever been a rugby player who manages to go their entire career without sustaining an injury? Probably not. We discuss the importance of warming up before playing rugby to help avoid getting injured.
What are the most common injuries?
As a rough and ready contact sport with the average player performing 20-40 tackles per match, the possibilities for injury are endless. Some player positions are more susceptible to injury than others and a lot of players continue to play in a match despite their injuries2.
The most common rugby injuries include:
- Overuse causing tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon) in the knees or ankles, or bursitis (inflammation of the bursa) in the elbow or knee joints3
- Hamstring injury – around 2.5 injuries for every 1000 hours of play4
- Ankle lateral ligament injury aka sprained ankle
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury – tearing or rupture of the knee ligaments
- Thigh haematoma – severe bruising and damage to blood vessels
- Other common injuries include lacerations, superficial injuries (cuts and grazes to the skin) and cauliflower ear (deformation of the ear cartilage, typically due to knocks to the head in the scrum)
Are rugby injuries on the rise?
One out of every four rugby players will be injured during a season, putting them out of action for at least one match5. The Rugby Football Union also reported there are around 17 injuries per 1000 hours of playing, and 57% of injuries occur in matches when players are tackling or being tackled. As the sport became more and more mainstream in schools and amateur teams in UK communities, rugby related injuries increased. However, thanks to recent research, there is a simple solution for players to reduce the volume and frequency of their injuries2.
How can I avoid getting injured?
There has always been an emphasis on the importance of warm ups before sport, but in order to fully prepare your body for the immense physical exertion required in rugby, a pre-match exercise programme is recommended. Sporting experts have found that when players follow such training methods, their risk of injury is significantly reduced. Effective and regular warm ups are therefore the answer.
The RFU's pre-match exercise programme should be carried out three times a week. It is split into four stages and takes 20 minutes to complete, not including the time it takes to stretch all your muscles properly6:
- Running and agility with activities that involve changes of direction (2 minutes)
- Lower limb balance training using rugby balls and other equipment (4 minutes)
- Targeted resistance exercises (8 minutes)
- Jumping, side-stepping and landing exercises (6 minutes)
What results can I expect?
Research from the RFU and the University of Bath carried out in 2013-2016 showed that targeted exercise is the key to reducing the chances of injury when playing rugby6. The study focused on 40 schools and around 2,500 pupils aged 14-18 years old as young, budding players are more susceptible to injury.
After completing a range of targeted warm up exercises three times a week, the researchers recorded that overall injuries fell by 72%, with concussions being reduced by 59%6. Another study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found a similar conclusion. The evidence showed a direct link between players carrying out an exercise programme and a reduction in sports injuries, when exercises were carried out twice or three times weekly7.
These reports raise significant awareness of the importance in warming up properly before sport, using diverse exercises throughout the week. In light of this, a similar study relating to adult players will soon be published, highlighting that effective warm ups encourage safer and more effective playing on the field6.
Get fit and get ready
It's not just rugby players who need to take care when warming up. All sports players should carry out effective exercises throughout the week during the games season. This not only helps to prevent injury, but it also improves performance. And who wouldn’t want to increase their chances of a win?
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