Common Rugby Injuries

rugby injuries

Common Rugby Injuries By John Miller

Rugby is a fast-moving and high intensity team sport. Although historically dominated by males, the sport is gaining popularity among females.

As many as 1 in 4 rugby players will be injured during the season. On average each player performs 20- 40 tackles per match. Almost 25% of neck injuries occur when there is a mismatch in experience between the two opposing front rows.

A lower ranked or less skilled team within the division, a forward position, being tackled, and beginning of the season are identified as risk factors for rugby injuries.

  • Rugby injury rates are reported to be nearly three times higher than soccer.
  • Most injuries are experienced by 10-18 year olds.
  • Adults aged 25–34 years have also been found to be at high risk.

When Do Rugby Injuries Occur?

  • More injuries occur during matches (57%) than in training, and more often in the second half of the game.
  • Approximately half of all injuries occur while a player is tackling or being tackled.

Which Rugby Players Suffer the Most Injuries?

  • Hookers and flankers sustain the most injuries.
  • Forwards are more frequently injured than backs because of their greater involvement in physical collisions and tackles.
  • In the backs, wings, fullbacks and centres are at the highest risk of injury.
  • In the scrum, the locks are at greatest risk of facial cuts and cauliflower ear (external deformity to the ear caused by repeated blows.
  • Players in rucks and mauls commonly suffer injuries to fingers and thumbs as well as abrasions and lacerations from cleats.

What Kinds of Injuries Occur in Rugby?

  • Over 40% of injuries are muscular strains or contusions (bruising), 30% are sprains, followed by dislocations, fractures, lacerations, and overuse injuries.
  • Sprained ankles are a common injury with ankle sprains representing almost 1 in 7 rugby injuries.
  • Between 5-25% of rugby injuries are head injuries, including concussions.
  • In youth aged 10-18 years, 35% of injuries are fractures, of which 24% involve the clavicle. 
  • Superficial injuries represent 20% of rugby injuries, followed by head injuries and sprains (16%). 
  • Of the head injuries, 44% are concussions.

Pre-Season Preparation is Important

More injuries occur at the beginning of a season, suggesting that pre-season conditioning could reduce injuries.

A pre-season conditioning program should gradually increase in intensity and duration to prepare athletes for competition.

Injury prevention strategies to reduce the incidence, severity and cost of rugby injuries could include coaching on defensive skills, correct tackling technique, correct falling technique and methods to minimise the absorption of impact forces in tackles.

To reduce scrummaging injuries at lower rugby levels, props should crouch, touch, pause and then engage. This technique is called Depowering the Scrum. Another alternative is Sequential Engagement where the front rows engage first and then the second row joins in, so that a stable scrum is established.

Source: The British Columbia Injury Research and Prevention Unit