1. Hamstring strain
The growth of professional rugby has resulted in a more physically demanding game thus increasing lower limb muscle injuries. Sprinting and quick turns can overstretch the Hamstring muscle, tearing or straining the tissue. A thorough warm up and the combined strengthening of the hamstrings together with the quadriceps in equal amounts can help to prevent injury. This will avoid strength imbalances which can increase the risk of hamstring strains as it has to overcompensate for weaker muscles elsewhere. Treatment consists of the RICE protocol – rest, ice, compression and elevation.
2. Sprained Ankle
This injury occurs following a sudden sideways or twisting movement of the foot and is the most common orthopaedic problem. The sprain happens when the ligament supporting the ankle is stretched too far and severity varies from a partial to a complete tear. Taping and bracing the ankle can minimise the risk of sprain but if sustained it is advised to see a physiotherapist who can recommend exercises to improve ankle instability and function. If injured, follow the PRICE treatment.
3. Acromio Clavicular Joint Sprain
Also known as shoulder separation and refers to the damage of the AC joint ligament situated at outer side of the collar bone where it is attached to the front of the shoulder blade. Pain may be initially widespread but more localised later on. A shoulder brace reinforcing the AC ligaments can slightly help to prevent injury but the very nature of the sport makes effective prevention very difficult as AC joint sprains are most likely to occur through tackles which cannot be avoided. If you are injured, rest and apply ice, immobilise the shoulder in a sling and see a specialist doctor.
4. Head Trauma
Ranging hugely in severity from superficial lacerations to serious concussion and broken noses, injuries to the face and head account for 20% of all Rugby Union injuries. A soft helmet designed for rugby is effective in preventing these injuries; it covers the skull, ears and forehead and is compulsory in some countries. Due to the potential gravity of injuries sustained to the head, it is important to seek medical assistance immediately.
5. Thumb Dislocation
The most common causes of a dislocated thumb are impact and direct contact hence its prevalence in Rugby Union. This injury occurs when the thumb is stretched beyond its limit or excess pressure is applied to the fingers. Symptoms include swelling, localised pain and lack of movement. There is not a lot you can do to prevent a dislocated thumb but if this injury is sustained, follow the RICE protocol, take anti-inflammatories and follow special exercises to help rehabilitate the thumb.
General tips for injury prevention
• Practice a structured training schedule
• Remember strength, flexibility and endurance exercises are as important as skill training
• Wear a mouthguard at all times and consider a headguard
• Avoid over exertion by participating at a level according to your ability
• Adhere to proper positioning during play to minimise dangerous moves
• Learn the correct technique for tackling, rucking and scrumming when injury incident rate is at its highest
• Consult a physiotherapist or medical professional upon any muscular discomfort/pain