Sports Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy for rugby injuries

What increases the chance of injuries when playing rugby?

Due to the physicality of rugby, injuries to all parts of the body are common. Common injuries include joint dislocation (shoulder, ankle, fingers), fractures (scaphoid, ankle, fingers, clavicle), ligament strains, muscle tears and cartilage (meniscal) damage.

There are a number of reasons certain players may be more susceptible to injuries in rugby. This can be due to muscle imbalance, poor biomechanical movements (line out lifting, scrummaging, rucking), joint instability, muscle weakness and bad luck!

It is important when playing such a physical sport that the player is conditioned to manage the intensity of the contact and the stresses of the game. By ensuring good joint stability through rugby specific conditioning training, the body can be prepared for the contact and demand of the game, reducing the risk of injury.

In rugby the most common period for injury during training is in the pre-season. Injuries tend to differ depending on the players position. For the backs, the most common injuries are to the hamstrings, calves, hip flexor's and adductor muscles. For the forwards the most common injuries were hamstrings, lateral ankle (anterior talofibial ligament) strains, lumbar disc/nerve root injuries and shoulder dislocations (glenohumeral, acromioclavicular, sternoclavicular).

Surprisingly, one study who looked at injuries in the English Premiership has shown that running was the most common cause of injury for both forwards and backs, although the severity of these injuries was relatively low. The more severe injuries were found during skills training with lumbar disc prolapse, shoulder dislocation, hamstring tears and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries causing the most numbers of days absence.

Shoulder dislocation is very common due to the joint itself being designed more for mobility than stability. The shoulder joint gains its stability from the ligaments and rotator cuff muscles. When the rotator cuff muscles are weak and lack control, the stability of the shoulder is compromised. In rugby the forces which are put through the shoulder complex are extremely high, especially when the shoulder is in positions of reduced stability (arm out to the side in a tackle). This therefore increases the risk of dislocation to the glenohumeral joint.

How can physiotherapy help my injury in rugby?

Your physiotherapist will complete a thorough assessment and will then ascertain the cause of the injury. Depending on the nature of the injury, the physiotherapist will then be able to provide a course of treatment. It may initially involve a period of rest from the game in order to allow the body to heal. A combination of manual therapy, a program of stretches and strengthening exercises will also be used. The physiotherapist may also be able to provide taping to a particular joint to improve its stability and reduced the risk of further injury.

It is important for the physiotherapist to ensure that the player is fit to return to rugby after suffering an injury and you do not return to playing too soon. This is a common issue with rugby players and it is important to get professional advice from the physiotherapist with regards to returning to sport. It is important to give the injury sufficient time to repair before predisposing the tissue to extra stress.

Before returning to sport the physiotherapist can guide you through a structured rehabilitation program. This will focus on restoring muscle strength, joint stability and slowly introducing rugby specific training to ensure the injured tissue can meet the demands of the game and verifying the player as fit to return to sport.

If you would like to discuss your problem before booking an appointment please give our physiotherapy team a call, we will do our best to help.