We caught up with our physio John Gripper, on all things Rugby related…..
What injuries do you see most often from this sport?
You get a fair bit of everything in rugby. Shoulder problems are common – things like dislocations and AC Joint sprains (the highest point of the shoulder blade is called the acromion. Strong tissues called ligaments connect the acromion to the collarbone, forming the AC joint. An AC joint sprain occurs when an injury damages the ligaments in the AC joint). Knee and ankle ligament tears. Muscle tears. ‘Stingers’ of the neck…. a stinger most commonly occurs when the head is forced sideways and away from the shoulder or pushed backward.
As a physio, how do you treat them?
For the shoulder injuries… less severe AC Joint sprains can be managed conservatively with physio, often involving PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) when acute, strength and mobility exercises, manual therapy and commonly taping can be useful to help offload the joint. More severe sprains can require surgical intervention before requiring a physiotherapy rehabilitation program.
People who experience dislocated shoulders are more commonly the younger population who want to return to sport and high levels of activity. Generally these injuries will require surgery to stabilise the shoulder.
Ultimately whether undergoing surgery or not, the goals of physiotherapy are to:
The latter stages of rehabilitation are more sport specific. They include phasing back to rugby training and lastly contact drills; things like tackling, hitting rucks and scrummaging – all the fun stuff.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give your best mate if they were taking part in this sport and wanted to avoid an injury?
The best advice I could give would be to get strong and fit. Engaging in a strength and conditioning program is invaluable and something I wish I’d done when at school. The game places big demands on the entire body. Having a good foundation of leg strength and trunk stability, as well as shoulder and neck strength are essential in avoiding rugby injuries. I’d suggest touching base with a physio if you have any concerns about your movement or strength, or even just for a MOT to check everything is in working order and you are good to go get stuck in. Rugby is a collision sport so the nature of the game is there are going to be some decent injuries. It’s a trade off because obviously rugby injuries are not ideal, but the collisions are what make it such a lot of fun to play and watch.
How to reduce the likelihood of shoulder injury: