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.
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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:
- Bruising and strains of the knee, ankle, thigh, or calf. These are the most common injuries, and make up about 30 percent of injuries, according to Sports Medicine Australia.
- Sprains in joints and ligaments make up about 20 percent of injuries, especially sprained ankles.
- Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the hamstring cause the most time missed from play.
- Fractures, particularly of the clavicle, spine injuries, head injuries, and concussions are among the more severe, but less common injuries in rugby.
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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.
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.