“The games gone soft” – a criticism that some have levelled in reaction to new laws surrounding the tackle area and certain aspects of player interaction. However, this accusation is far from the truth – rugby is not going soft, it is in fact getting harder. Since the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987, players, on average have gained 12kg (almost 2 stone) and the number of rucks and mauls in a match have increased by 500%. In the last decade alone, the number of collisions and resultant impact forces have doubled. Looking at statistics like this, it is little wonder that incidences of injury are increasing. Professional players can often be heard saying that the only game you play 100% fit is the first game of the season and headlines surrounding missing players or mid-match injuries are now common place. Rugby is a game famed for players ‘toughing up’ and playing through the pain barrier and injury is now becoming more common place in the amateur game as well as in the professional ranks. A fast paced game marketed for all shapes and sizes, it is not totally surprising that injuries occur. Poor technique, different body types and skill sets coming up against each other as well as just plain bad luck are all attributing factors to injury.
A recent study in Australia has shown that at least a quarter of all rugby players will experience some sort of injury at some point during the season, and more likely in the second half of the year. This is significantly higher than other sports, almost three times the reported injury rate of football for example. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the most at risk are adult males aged between 25 and 34. However, due to changing physiology, younger and older players are now more at risk than before. The majority of injuries (57%) tend to occur in a game play situation, and more so in the second half of matches. According to the study, almost half of all injuries occur during the tackle, and given the above statistic on tackle volume increasing it is hardly surprising that the injury rate is on the rise too. Up to 25% of rugby injuries have been found to occur to the head and of that almost half have been shown to be concussions. Taking these numbers into account, it is little surprise that World Rugby are actively looking to reduce the incidence rates of concussion across all levels of the game, as well as investing heavily in research and understanding of its causes and symptoms. The remaining 75% of injuries are reported to be broken down into muscle strains or bruising (40%), sprains (30%; almost half of which are ankles) and other categories such as dislocations, fractures, lacerations, and overuse/fatigue.
These numbers may appear alarming, but it is important to remember that injuries in rugby are not a new phenomenon and although not totally avoidable there are certain things that can be done to help reduce the risk. First amongst these is ensuring that correct technique is utilised and more importantly properly coached. For example, correct tackling and even falling techniques will not only make you safer but may even improve you as a player and your team. Of course, it is not possible to fully eradicate injury in rugby, no matter how careful or prepared you may be – it always has and always will be part of the game. Therefore, it is important to ensure that all players have adequate insurance cover before playing, the coverage may prove invaluable (For more information regarding insurance, click here.
Written by – James Jones