Rugby is a sport that is gaining traction around the world, particularly as the Rugby World Cup gains in popularity in each outing.
While rugby players may be less prone to concussions than American football players, in countries where rugby is fairly new, new sports injuries are popping up. Studies are linking this to the variations in how the game is played based on tackling technique.
We’re taking a look at three different studies that examined what rugby sports-related injuries look like and some preventative steps rugby players can take to avoid injury.
Rugby Players & Concussions
A recent 2019 study that was presented at The American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference in Indianapolis looked at rugby-style tackling and how this may reduce the risk of head injury. During the study, twenty football players had sensors placed in their helmets, and ten rugby players had sensors placed in their mouth guards.
Once the study was finished, the outcome was clear that the football players had more frequent and harder hits with an average of 63 g-force. The rugby players had an average of 21 g-force. That’s a huge difference, and something to take a look at when it comes to changing the way athletes tackle as a way to protect their heads from sustaining an injury.
The lead on this study, Zach Garrett, DHS states that teaching athletes how to use a rugby-style approach to tackling by leading with their shoulders first vs. their heads could make college sports much safer. He also went on to say that some NFL teams have already started using this rugby-style tackling approach in order to help protect athletes from concussions. The most notable team is the Seattle Seahawks.
What Are the Most Common Injuries in Rugby?
While rugby players may suffer from fewer concussions than football players, this doesn’t mean they don’t get concussions or aren’t prone to being injured in other ways. There was a large study published in Open Access J Sports Med, in 2016 that studied rugby sports-related injuries that resulted in treatment in US emergency rooms between the years of 2004-2013.
Over the ten year study, the estimated number of rugby sports injuries treated in the emergency department in the US was 128,813. Most of the injuries came from men between the ages of 18-23 years old.
The study found that the most common types of injuries were to the head, face, shoulder, and ankle. Concussions, lacerations, and contusions were the most common injuries to the head and face. Sprains, strains, fractures, and lacerations were also common.
Male rugby players had a significantly higher rate of injury, and one of the theories talked about in this study was that many male rugby players also played American football. American football players tackle with a facemask, using a headfirst approach. This technique can then translate over to how former football players would tackle in rugby.
One approach to reducing the face and head injuries is to teach players how to use the proper rugby approach to tackling. This does not involve leading head first. Using your shoulder first, as proven in the previous study, has been shown to help reduce the incidence of concussion among rugby players.
Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at rugby injuries in semi-professional rugby players. The study found that muscular injuries were the most common type of injury that occurred during training as well as matches.
Injuries that were sustained while playing the game generally happened during tackling, and overexertion was the most common cause of muscular injury that occurred during training. Training injuries were more common in the early part of the season while playing injuries happened to occur more often later on in the season.
Rugby Sports Injury Recovery Hacks
As shown by the study presented at The American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference, one of the best ways to reduce your risk of concussions is to use the proper rugby tackling form. Going in with your shoulder first instead of your head has been shown to be beneficial. This is important for all rugby players and anyone who plays a contact sport.
As far as muscular injuries go, they are commonly seen in this sport. A lot of wear and tear occurs with overexertion of the joints. Without the right pre and post-training care, rugby players, or really any contact sport athlete, runs the risk of injuring themselves more permanently.
Here are three rugby sport injury hacks to help reduce your risk or to help support an injury if one does happen.
#1 Focus on Pre-Season Conditioning: Since many of the muscle-related injuries tend to happen early on in the season, the right pre-season condition could make a difference. Rugby coaches can help by implementing pre-season conditioning and training that focuses on increasing endurance, teaching proper rugby tackling technique, and proper lower impact falling techniques.
#2 Collagen Protein For After Injury Care: If a rugby player does happen to get a muscle or joint-related injury, collagen protein powder can be a great part of after injury care. Collagen can help maintain the integrity of muscles as well as tendons. In order for muscles to repair and begin healing, muscles rely on proteins such as collagen. This is where collagen supplementation comes in.
#3 Stick to a Well-Balanced Training Schedule: Another way to help prevent injury is to follow a well-balanced training schedule that includes endurance training, strength, and flexibility. It’s important to continue to condition during the season to help keep the body in tip-top shape and be less prone to sustaining an injury.
The Bottom Line
Rugby is an extremely popular sport, that’s expanding worldwide. However, since many rugby players, especially from the US, have also previously played American football, poor rugby tackling techniques may translate to more concussions. It’s been shown that with the right rugby-tackling form, head injuries can be significantly decreased.
Not only that but getting ahead of muscle injuries is important. This involves having the right preconditioning training, a balance of endurance, strength, and flexibility training during the season, and collagen supplementation to help support muscle growth, and repair is key. Taking the preventative steps necessary to avoid injury can be done with a few strategies to make the game of rugby safer.