Top 6 Ways to Reduce Rugby Injuries
Updated: Feb 14
I know, you’ve heard it a million times; go to bed sooner.What if you knew you were more likely to get injured if you had less than 8 hours sleep? Would you make it as much of a priority as training? Getting less than 8 hours sleep can increase your risk of injury 1.7 times. In one study it showed 4x more injuries in players reporting 6 hours
of sleep per night compared to those getting 9 hours of sleep. Studies have shown that even a low level of fatigue can impair reaction times as much or more than being legally drunk. There are small things that set apart good from great. Usually, these things take discipline and good habits. This great article from SimpliFaster https://simplifaster.com/articles/athlete-sleep-habits/ goes into detail on things you can implement now to improve your sleep.See what things you can start today.
TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE
Whether you’ve been pushing for a new 1RM on your back squat or never really been shown how to properly squat, technique always needs attention. There’s a reason why the best rugby players in the world still stand and work on their passing. They’re always fine tuning the smallest most precise details. This is the same with exercises. Being sloppy and lazy in your weight-lifting technique can further imbalances and over time contribute to injuries. Be a student of movement. Focus as much on the execution of the exercise as you do to the load on the bar and how many reps you got in. If you learned to deadlift from your buddy at the gym, maybe hire a professional to go through and clean up your form. After all, if you’re building strength in those movements, you want to make sure they’re as perfect as possible.
As an athlete you’re probably very aware of how important protein is to repair and build muscle, but it’s also how your body produces new collagen and elastin to help keep your tendons and ligaments strong. Getting enough protein can protect against ligament and tendon damage. I find young male and most female athletes do not consume as much protein as they think they are. Having 2 eggs, a protein shake and a chicken breast a day is not enough for an athlete that’s training 4-5 days a week. There’s a lot of calculators out there, I prefer Precision Nutrition’s resources and you can find their calculator here. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrition-calculator. At first, the amount it recommends may seem unachievable. Most people eat the same types of meals week after week. Look at your typical snacks and try to think of ways you can include more protein: Adding half a scoop of protein to your oatmeal, choosing a bar that has 5 grams more, scramble 3 eggs instead of 2. Aim to increase even just 5-10 grams a day over the next few weeks and take note of how you feel and how your recovery is.
BULLETPROOF YOUR HAMSTRINGS
Glutes are definitely trending right now, but big strong glutes are only part of the equation. Hamstring strength is one of the biggest determining factors in knee injury prevention.Your hamstrings are the main muscle group used in deceleration, back pedalling, cutting and changing direction. Most lower body exercises work the quadriceps twice as much as hamstrings. I have found that male athletes struggle to hinge well. With great ankle mobility and tight hips, they initiate most movements with the knees going forward, instead of hips going back. This means that posterior chain isn’t getting the work it needs. Male athletes may need to start with some mobility and body weight technique to get them comfortable driving those hips back to get maximal glute and hamstring recruitment. Look at your training routine. Each week make sure you include: 1. isolated hamstring work 2. focussed hinge exercises (ideally single leg) and 3. hip mobility work.
PROTECT YOUR SHOULDER WITH YOUR BACK
The shoulder comprises of 20% of all rugby injuries being the second most commonly injured joint after the knee. Doing military press and lateral raises aren’t enough to protect you against dislocations, tears and sprains.In fact, because your shoulder is capable of so much movement, training the same muscles over and over can cause imbalances that can lead to higher injury risk. Instead of just targeting the shoulder muscles, focus on the muscles that protect your shoulder joint as it moves. These are mostly found on the back of the body. Along with all the big movers, there are a lot of small, often weaker, muscles that are so important to shoulder health.With this in mind here’s two tips to implement immediately. 1. Double up your back to chest/shoulder exercises. 2. Train the shoulder/scapula in different positions. Your arm goes through tons of different movements in a game, think about what these are and find a movement that strengthens your arm in that position. For back exercises you can do while at home, check out our recent YouTube video.
MOBILITY OVER FLEXIBILITY
These two things are often confused and incorrectly used. Flexibility is “the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion”, whereas mobility is the “ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion”. Stretching is often emphasized with little direction and purpose. This means, just because you can get into a low scrum, does not mean you have strength and control in that position. Young female athletes tend to have much more range of motion in their joints than they can control. They probably don’t need the stretching that maybe male athletes need. Often hamstrings and lower back ‘feel tight’ because there is instability or hyper-mobility in the pelvis combined with weak core muscles. Constantly stretching the hamstrings won’t fix this. Focussing on stabilizing and mobility movements can help relieve the chronic tightness by giving your body the confidence to move safely in full ranges of motion.
You have to be at least breathing right…right? Actually, most people take very shallow breaths through their mouth contributing to higher stress levels and weak core muscles. When doing this article, I realized this deserves its own article and video series. I feel it needs to be on this list, but definitely requires more attention than a short paragraph. Look for this shortly!