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Play Safe: Preventing Injuries in Rugby


WRITTEN BY: Sports Medicine
Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Rugby is a fierce contact team sport with its roots in the United Kingdom. While the game has established popularity worldwide, it is quickly gaining momentum in the United States. Rugby was featured in the Rio 2016 Olympics for the first time since the 1920s, in which USA was the last gold medal winner. In many ways, rugby is similar to American football, and involves passing, receiving, and tackling.

The difference? Rugby is a free-flowing game without stoppages and defined set plays like football. Players do not wear helmets or heavy padding, though they may sport shoulder pads, mouth guards, and a “scrum camp,” which shields the ears.

To prevent rugby injuries you should: Follow game rules and proper technique.
Wear the recommended safety gear.
Make sure you’ve trained properly and are warmed up for the game.

Common Rugby Injuries

Given the nature of the sport, injuries are common during rugby matches. The majority of injuries happen during tackles, and they are much more common during matches than during training. Common rugby injuries include:

Rugby Injuries on the Rise?

Many are concerned that rugby injuries seem to be on the rise at the professional level, and the fear extends to the game’s young players. Teenagers are a large portion of registered rugby players and they make up nearly half of the registered players in the U.S., according to a review in the Journal of Athletic Training.

As the public is paying more attention to concussions for American football players and young athletes, these injuries are also gaining attention in rugby. Incidence of concussion in rugby may be around seven percent, but this number varies widely, and as in many cases, there are concerns about under-reporting. World Rugby, international rugby’s governing body, is making focused efforts and has seen improvements in recognition and management of concussions with their educational initiatives.

It’s important to always have qualified medical professionals available during matches, and for players who are having concussion symptoms to visit a sports medicine expert who is trained in the evaluation, management, and treatment of concussions.

RELATED: Infographic: Common Sports Injuries

Injury Prevention in Rugby: Staying Safe on the Field

Many rugby injuries happen early in the season, suggesting that preseason conditioning may help reduce the sprains and strains. If you’re already playing rugby or thinking of taking up the sport, be sure to warm up and cool down before every match.

Other best practices to help lower your risk of injury include:

  • Follow proper technique for tackling and side-stepping
  • Develop a training program that includes drills, coordination, strength, balance, and flexibility
  • Wear protective gear such as headgear and a mouth guard
  • Use ankle taping for added protection and support
  • If you are injured during a game, avoid returning to play until you have been cleared by a medical professional. Continued play will only increase the chances of another injury.

Learn more about sports injuries and injury prevention by visiting the UPMC Sports Medicine website.

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Sports Medicine

UPMC Sports Medicine is the region’s largest and most experienced program dedicated to treating, training, and inspiring athletes at levels, in all sports. Our physicians, surgeons, physical therapists, athletic trainers, sports nutrition, and sports performance experts are dedicated to helping athletes and active people recover from injuries, and even prevent them. Read More