It’s been a scintillating Rugby World Cup so far.
Hosts France have got their campaign off to the best possible start by defeating New Zealand, Ireland have shown exactly why they are the number one-ranked team on the planet and a 14-man England put in an inspired performance to down Argentina.
In the run-in to the World Cup, French captain Antoine Dupont stated that France winning the Webb Ellis Trophy on home soil would do wonders for the game as more of his countrymen and women would be encouraged to take up the sport.
The growth of rugby certainly is cause for celebration, though it can never be forgotten that injuries will inevitably occur given it is a contact sport.
Joseph Ferguson, a senior physiotherapist at Ultra Sports Clinic affiliate Third Space Medical, explains that injuries vary and can even differ according to what position the individual plays.
“Forwards, who are typically involved in repetitive heavy contact, are more prone to joint and bone injuries such as shoulder dislocations, AC joint sprains, fractures and neck injuries,” he says.
“Backs, on the other hand, often face a higher risk of soft tissue injuries such as hamstring strains, Achilles tendon ruptures and knee ligament injuries due to the agility and sprinting demands of their positions.”
While returning the player to the pitch as soon as possible after injury is the desired outcome, this process needs to be managed carefully. In fact, there are strict protocols that need to be followed and adhered to, namely:
Assessment/diagnosis: The first point of contact for musculoskeletal-related injuries should be with a physiotherapist who can also refer patients to appropriate health professionals for further investigation.
Rehabilitation: The rehab programme is designed to restore strength, flexibility and sport-specific functionality. This stage is crucial to prevent re-injury and will be unique to each person based on their injury and the demands of their position.
Gradual progression: Players must progress through stages of graded return to activity.
Mental health: Anxiety and depression are commonly seen in injured players who miss playing or feel externally pressured to return quickly.
Clearance: Players can only return to the field after receiving clearance from medical professionals.
Players themselves can play their part in injury prevention, Joseph says.
Strength and conditioning, proper recovery strategies, eating nutritious food, optimising passing, tackling and kicking techniques, exercise that promotes flexibility, and mental conditioning are now considered essential to keeping players fit and ready.
The time frames for recovery are dependent on the severity of the injury. Muscle strains, for example, can take anywhere from two to eight weeks or even longer. In cases where a player has suffered a fracture, they may be sidelined for several months.
Concussion, as in any contact sport, is another possibility, Joseph adds.
In this regard, he recommends that practices like teaching proper tackling techniques, wearing impact-absorbing mouthguards, promoting concussion awareness and strict enforcement of the rules on the field can all play a role in mitigating the risk of head injuries.