Contact Rugby is a strenuous, high-intensity game, involving hard physical impacts and large amounts of stress on the body, so injuries can happen.
Ankles and knee joints are particularly vulnerable to twisting injuries, and shoulders can be injured while tackling. In the forwards, there’s a high chance of injuring fingers competing for the ball in rucks and mauls - and of course there’s always the risk of a head injury – cuts or concussions.
However, there are things you can do to reduce the chances of getting hurt. These include:
Being fit – strengthening your joints and the muscles and ligaments around them – can go a very long way towards preventing some of the more common injuries. As well as basic fitness, be sure to go to the pre-season conditioning sessions with your club, and before every game you should warm up and stretch for 15-20 minutes, and take time to cool down afterwards.
Some clubs provide ice baths to soothe muscles. When you’re not used to it, this can come as a bit of a shock, but it’s proven to help repair damaged tissue.
This is particularly important for under 18s and over 35s, but everyone should really be checked over by a doctor (ideally with a sports medicine speciality) before the season to ensure there are no underlying problems which may become serious in a highly demanding sport like rugby.
You can wear several pieces of equipment designed to keep you safe while playing rugby, including mouthguards, headguards and padding. A lot of players choose not to wear padding and it’s largely left to personal choice, but a mouthguard is absolutely essential. Check out our comprehensive guide, here. (Link: “What kit do I need…”)
Learning proper techniques for tackling and being tackled can make a big difference in reducing shoulder, head and joint in21juries. Timing your tackle well, using your arms and knowing where to put your head are crucial. And don’t be tempted to copy premiership players on TV who tackle by putting their head in front of the hip of the player they’re tackling – if they don’t need their head examining before they do it, they certainly will afterwards! It’s best to remember the words “cheek-to-cheek” when tackling from the side – your cheek against their bum cheek guarantees you a soft landing. However – this is not a coaching manual. Tackle techniques will vary according to your body type, position and the level you’re playing at. For safety’s sake, these are best learnt from a qualified coach at your rugby club.
Wrapping tape (plaster, bandage or even electrical tape) around your ankles and any joints you know to be weak before the game will help support them. Your club’s physio
will show you how to tape up various parts of your body to protect them.
It’s important that you take the advice of your doctor or physio before returning to play after an injury or concussion.
If you have a cut that is bleeding, you will not be allowed to return to the field of play until it has stopped. This may mean you need stitches. Usually this will mean a “blood replacement” will take your place on the field until the bleeding is under control, for a maximum of ten minutes. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped after ten minutes, you will not be allowed to return to the game, as it’s likely you’ll need to go to hospital.
Head injuries are much less common in amateur rugby than in professional rugby, but your physio will still take a safety first approach if you get a bang on the head, in case you suffer concussion. You’ll be assessed on the touchline to see whether it’s safe for you to continue playing. If you appear at all woozy or your vision is blurred, you will not be allowed to continue – no matter how much you want to – for your own safety.
An intensely physical game like rugby will not be suitable for everyone. If you (or your child, if they’re playing) suffer from conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Diabetes, concussion, Asthma, bleeding disorders, epilepsy or infections, you should take the advice of your doctor before taking up rugby. For more information, go to www.englandrugby.com/rugbysafe/guides-and-faqs/