Tackling rugby’s roughest injuries
From concussions to jersey finger, learn about the most common rugby injuries and how to get back on the pitch.
A sport growing in popularity across the country, rugby combines the best of soccer and (American) football in a high-impact game. Players can also play the game for a long time: The average retirement age is 33 for professional rugby players, but local teams often have athletes in their 30s-50s on their squads.
“Rugby is an intensely physical sport, and the injuries that we often see are the result of that physicality,” says Dr. Jeffrey Comapas, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist with HCA Florida Healthcare. “Luckily, knowing the rules, executing proper tackling and wearing a properly fitting mouthguard can help prevent many of the common injuries we see.”
Learn about the most common rugby injuries and how to get back on the pitch.
Be in-the-know about common rugby injuries
In professional rugby, players often experience injuries to their lower bodies, including muscle bruising. However, the injuries that kept them out of the game the longest were traumatic ones like ligament tears.
Amateur rugby players can experience a similar range of injuries.
For rugby players with limited head protection, concussions can be caused by impact with other players or the ground. Any player suspected of having a concussion should leave the game and be cleared by a medical professional before returning to play, as going back in the game before full recovery can result in further injury.
Because rugby players often don’t have much facial protection beyond mouthguards, they can experience cuts, bruises and even fractures to their faces from impacts with other players and the ground.
A distinctive rugby injury, jersey finger occurs when a player’s finger gets stuck in an opponent’s jersey, and is then forcibly straightened, causing a ruptured tendon.
Rugby players are constantly on the run, which can lead to overuse injuries such as shin splints. Other overuse injuries can be caused by overtraining or practicing without proper warmups and cooldowns.
Broken and dislocated bones and joints are, unfortunately, a common result of tacking and ground impacts. Other traumatic injuries don’t necessarily require contact. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injuries, for example, are common in sports like rugby where players make sharp cuts when running. And ligament tears can often be season-ending injuries for rugby athletes.
Take steps to prevent rugby injuries
Not all rugby injuries can be prevented, especially given how much contact happens during each play. However, players can lower their chances of injury by:
- Following proper form: You can protect others on the field with proper tackling form.
- Learning the rules of the game: You can help prevent injuries by playing by the rules and avoiding risky behavior.
- Maintaining your fitness: Stay in peak condition through strength, cardiovascular and flexibility-building activities to lower your risk of injury.
- Staying hydrated: Improve your performance and lower the risk of heat-related illness with proper hydration.
- Warming up and cooling down: Use dynamic warmups before practices and games to warm your muscles up. Also be sure to cool down to decrease your heart rate after activity.
- Wearing a mouthguard: Unlike football, rugby players often don’t wear helmets and pads. However, a properly fitting mouthguard can protect your smile from injury.
Find care when you need it
“Players can take many steps to avoid getting injured,” says Dr. Comapas. “But most importantly, players should make sure to come out of the game, find treatment and take time to recover if they’re hurt.”
If you do experience an injury that does not improve with rest and conservative treatments at home, or if your pain becomes worse, a trusted orthopedic specialist can help diagnose and care for the problem. Call (844) 671-4206 to get connected with an orthopedic doctor and find the care you need.