Rugby injuries are common due to the physicality and contact nature of the sport. In most cases, the only protection a rugby player wears is a gum shield. Shoulder padding and scrum cap head protection are also available and permitted.
Rugby injuries that affect the shoulder
The most common Rugby injuries are caused by either a direct impact or trauma, most often from a collision with an opponent.
AC joint separation
AC joint separation or AC joint sprain is an injury to the ligament that holds the acromioclavicular joint together at the top of the shoulder, often caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm. Getting early treatment and support taping is important to avoid long-term problems or shoulder deformity.
- Pain right at the end of the collarbone, on the top of the shoulder
- Pain may spread throughout the shoulder, but become more localized to a bony point on the top of the shoulder later on
Read more on treatment for AC joint separation.
Shoulder dislocations are traumatic and painful. They are often caused by contact sports or falling. The upper arm bone dislocates out of its normal position with significant damage to the surrounding soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments).
- If you suspect a dislocated shoulder, seek immediate medical attention.
- Rehabilitation is essential if the athlete is to avoid re-injuring the shoulder.
Read more on a dislocated shoulder.
Thigh & groin injuries in Rugby
A hamstring strain is a tear of one of the hamstring muscles at the back of your thigh. In Rugby, it usually occurs when sprinting.
Symptoms of a hamstring strain include:
- Pain whilst sprinting or a fast stretching movement or a high kick
- A pulled hamstring is graded either 1, 2, or 3, depending on how bad it is
- A grade 1 injury may only be a slight twinge whilst a grade 3 can result in the player being unable to walk
- Swelling may occur in more severe injuries and bruising may develop soon after
Read more on hamstring strains.
Rugby ankle injuries
A sprained ankle is one of the most common sports injuries and is also the most frequently re-injured. In the majority of cases, the ankle rolls inwards (inversion) under the weight of the rest of the body, resulting in damage to the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
- Pain is usually felt around the ankle joint itself although more specifically on the outside of the ankle where the damaged ligaments are located.
- Swelling or bruising may present immediately or may take up to 48 hours to develop (depending on the types of structures damaged and the severity of the sprain).
Read more on a sprained ankle.
Hand & finger
Jersey finger is a tear of one of the flexor tendons which bends the fingers. It is common in contact sports such as Rugby and causes the tendon to bunch at the base of the finger.
Read more on Jersey finger.
A thumb sprain occurs when the thumb is bent out of its normal range of movement, usually backward. It is common in skiing, rugby, and basketball. If a sprained thumb is not treated properly then it can recur and be a long-term weakness.
Read more on Thumb sprain.
Should I see a professional about my Rugby injury?
If you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.
- Severe pain, especially on walking
- Severe swelling (oedema)
- Altered sensation in the foot – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia).
- Unable to complete normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.
Further medical assistance can be sought through either your local GP or a private clinician such as a podiatrist, physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath, or chiropractor.
If you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see below) and are still unable to walk after 72 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment.
If you have applied the P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have a weakness that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your foot or heel, then seek advice from a specialist expert, such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist, osteopath, or chiropractor. They will provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program.
Immediate first aid for acute Rugby injuries
The PRICE principles are the gold standard set for treating acute sports injuries. The acronym stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Apply them as early as possible and continue for at least the first 24-72 hours.
Read more on PRICE principles
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