With the Rugby World Cup 2019 (RWC19) kicking off just as the AFL finals are finishing, there is likely to be a reasonable amount of attention on Rugby Union in the coming months. While Rugby might not garner the same amount of support in Melbourne, there is still a strong and passionate community around the sport.
Rugby Union differs from AFL in a number of ways, rules and gameplay being the most obvious. Additionally, the natures of injuries sustained from each sport are markedly different. Rugby Union injuries are often contact based, given the force of a tackle is much higher in Rugby than in Footy. Rugby Union physios are often assessing and managing injuries to the shoulder, elbow, knee and ankles due to tackling.
Rugby players are also exposed to contact during scrums and rucks. Care needs to be taken around collapsing scrums and diving into rucks, as the neck can be put in a particularly vulnerable position. Players are also susceptible to hamstring and calf strains/tears from running, not dissimilar to those seen in AFL.
When it comes to treating injuries, physios look to manage the acute phase with RICE and gentle movement before rehabilitating the joint/muscle/tendon and preparing the player for a return to the sport. These injuries can be severe but often are mild to moderate, so returning to sport before the end of the season is realistic.
Learning to prevent these injuries by adopting the right techniques is very important for regular Rugby players. For example, keeping your head to the side and ensuring the main contact is to the top of the shoulder and not below the elbow, helps distribute the force and avoid undue stress on joints. Talk to your coach about reviewing your technique and identify areas where you can make improvements.
Contact around the scrum and ruck are the other times where injury risk can be managed. Front rowers are the most at risk in the scrum as all the force will go through their shoulders and spine, which if not distributed well can cause injury/strain to these areas. Front row is a specialist position that players need to train specifically for. All forwards should look to keep their spine parallel to the ground while scrummaging and know how to “get out of trouble” if the scrum starts turning or collapsing. Ruck cleanouts are similar where if you go in with your head too low or high you can strain the neck due to the forces of the contact.
Finally, there are a several things players should take into consideration to manage and prevent running injuries. Firstly, running style should be analysed to ensure it is efficient and does not predispose to injury. As with other sports, managing training loads is important to reduce the chances of soft tissue injuries due to overloading. You should also consider a proprioception-training program to prevent injuries such as ACL rupture.
If you play Rugby Union in Melbourne and are in need of physio assessment or treatment for an injury, contact Fairfield Physiotherapy at 94897744. Jonathan Bastin has worked with Rugby Union teams both on-field and in a rehab/recovery setting, so will be well equipped to help you with whatever issue you may have.