Frequent physical contact and tackles causing falls on the shoulders makes it one of the most vulnerable areas of injury! Tackles are responsible for between 49-72% of shoulder injuries sustained from rugby trainings and games (Critchon, Jones & Funk, 2012).
And it’s not only the shoulders, but many other parts of the body that has to withstand the impact of a rugby game from amateur to professional leagues — muscle haematomas (where bleeding happens inside the muscle) or strains (tearing in the muscle), concussions due to head impact, and even spine injuries to the neck and back are all commonly reported injuries (Brooks et al., 2005).
How does Chiropractic and Physiotherapy care come into play here?
After a thorough assessment to ensure that each client is safe for further treatment, chiropractic and physiotherapy care helps to improve the players recovery to ensure they can return to sport safely.
Chiropractic addresses any restrictions in the joints, such as limited mobility in the neck or back. You may have seen videos where there are cracking and popping sounds during a chiropractic adjustment — those are gas bubbles being released in the joint. Since our body parts are all interconnected, even restrictions in the spine can impact our recovery! One example is when a player has pain and limitation when raising his arm upwards. Because that movement involves upper and midback spine extension, making sure that the spine isn’t restricted in those areas can improve recovery of the shoulder.
Fun Fact: Ex-All Black and 2011 RWC Champion, Mills Muliaina is currently studying towards a Chiropractic degree!
Physiotherapy focuses on the movement patterns and activation of muscle groups during an activity or sport. Recurrent injuries may be because of weak muscles compensating, and it is important to address the root cause. For example, lower back pain during a forward run may be because of weaknesses around the hip muscles, or even stiffness in the upper back causing compensation to the back. When you address the cause of the problem, it reduces incidences of future injury.
Read: Ex-Gloucester physio Luke Anthony told The Sun that England rugby stars could be at a disadvantage, physiologically due to the COVID-19 lockdown period leading to higher risk of injuries.
What can be done IMMEDIATELY after an injury?
Here’s our senior physiotherapist, Jer Shin, to give some input after his experience being a first responder on site at the 2019 Cobra 10s, and also being a certified Medic with World Rugby.
“After an injury on the field, it’s important to stop playing, pull yourself out of the game, and substitute out! Even if you think it’s a small injury and want to get back into the game right away, always check the affected area and assess for any bleeding, cuts, or swelling. If any of those are visible, apply first aid using the P.R.I.C.E. principle (P-Protect, R-Rest, I-Ice, C-Compression & E-Elevation).
“See if the player is able to move any injured body parts by themselves. If unable to, or the pain is too much, always refer further to your medical professional for further steps. Likewise, any injuries to the head also requires a medical professional to assess! It’s important to play safe and be wise whenever injuries happen, so that you can continue playing even more games in the future.”
What further rehabilitation can be done?
Only when we begin to understand how and where injuries happen on the field, then we can begin an assessment to discover strategies, such as increasing strength or flexibility, to help the rugby player rehabilitate through their injuries and avoid future incidences. Stay tuned to the next edition of RAGBI.MY for our second series with Spinefit Chiro & Physio: Recovery during Rugby Injuries.
This article was part of a 3 part series of articles that first appeared in RAGBI.MY’s September 2020 issue. Download [PDF]
Crichton, J., Jones, D., & Funk, L. (2012). Mechanisms of traumatic shoulder injury in elite rugby players. British Journal Of Sports Medicine, 46(7), 538-542. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2011-090688
Brooks, J. H. M., Fuller, C. W., Kemp, S. P. T., et al. (2005) Epidemiology of injuries in English professional rugby union: part 1 match injuriesBritish Journal of Sports Medicine, 39, 757-766. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2005.018135