Rugby is growing in popularity across the GTA among both male and female athletes. It is a high collision, high intensity sport which also has one of the highest injury rates among athletes. Who is most at risk and what can you do to prevent these injuries?
Mechanism of Injury
80% of rugby injuries occur during contact, with the tackle accounting for the majority of injuries, followed by the ruck. It was also found that the tackler was more at risk for injury than the person being tackled, while forwards experienced more injuries than backs.
Knee and ankle ligament injuries, along with hamstring injuries, account for 33% of all rugby injuries. Preseason exercise based intervention programs have reduced these injuries by 62-70 %. Read more here on lower body injury prevention strategies.
The shoulder is also commonly injured, with an AC joint dislocation being the most common shoulder injury, and is mainly caused by a tackle, impact with players or the ground.
Concussions account for roughly 20% of all rugby injuries. Rugby has also been shown to have the highest amount of concussions compared to all other team sports. In the past couple of years, there has been a huge push in the education and awareness of head injury and its prevention in rugby. Studies have shown there to be three main risk factors for concussions in rugby:
1. The tackle was the most likely cause of head injury;
2. The tackler was the player most likely to sustain the concussion;
3. The risk was 4x greater in high contact tackles (i.e., when the tackler was upright and his head was at or near the level of the ball carrier’s head and shoulders).
World rugby took this information and decided to make changes by penalizing players for high tackles and heavily encouraging lower and safer tackles.
Injury Prevention Strategies
- Exercise based intervention programs such as FIFA 11 focus on exercises to improve balance, coordination, strength and power in order to prevent lower extremity injuries. FIFA 11 has been shown to reduce lower extremity injuries across many sports, including Rugby. However, they do not focus on upper extremity injuries, which account for 41 % of all rugby related injuries. As a result, the FIFA 11 program is helpful, but additional upper body exercises focused on shoulder and neck strengthening need to be supplemented in order to target rugby specific injuries.
- Tackling education and good tackling technique are prudent for injury reduction, since the majority of injuries are contact related, especially concussions. This is especially important at the youth levels. If players are taught early on to tackle safely, it will follow them througho