Rugby is one of the most popular sports in the world alongside soccer and cricket. In the recent years rugby has been gaining in popularity in the United States with athletes from elementary school to adults playing the game. Now more than 80,000 players are registered with USA Rugby, 20,000 of these players are high school age. In South Africa however , Rugby has always been a National Sport.


Rugby demands the running and endurance of soccer combined with the contact and tackling that is similar to American football and Rugby League.

With running there is the potential for overuse injuries like tendinitis and bursitis. More common, however are traumatic injuries sustained during collisions with other players and/or the ground during scrumming, rucking and tackling.

Overuse Injuries

Because rugby involves a great deal of running, tendinitis of the knee or ankle, medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) and bursitis are all overuse injuries commonly seen. Although these are usually not considered “serious” injuries, they can adversely affect performance and possibly lead to more complicated conditions if not properly addressed by a qualified sports medicine professional.

Traumatic injuries

Because it is a collision sport, traumatic injuries do occur in rugby. They can include fractured bones, dislocated fingers and elbows, cuts, sprained ligaments and strained tendons or muscles and deep muscle bruises. There has been an increase of facial fractures especially of the nose because helmets are not worn.

Knee injuries like medical collateral and anterior cruciate ligament sprains and meniscus tears can occur from contact forces or from rotational forces during a quick change of direction. Shoulder injuries from contact with other players or the ground can include sprains of the acromioclavicular joint (AC separation) or dislocations of the glenohumeral joint . Because players do not wear any type of protective mask, cuts on the face are fairly common in rugby players. In addition, rugby tacklers can get injured just as easily as those being tackled due to the lack of protective body pads.


As in other sports that involve speed and contact, concussions can and do happen in rugby. Confusion, forgetfulness, dizziness, blurred vision and a headaches are just a few possible symptoms of a concussion. Rugby players are traditionally a tough breed and may attempt to continue or return to play after a concussion. However, every player with suspected concussion should be removed from the practice or game. It is vey important that players are properly evaluated and cleared for play from a qualified medical professional who is experienced and familiar with modern concussion management.


When recovering from rugby injury there are few things to consider. As with most sports, regaining strength and flexibility after an injury are important to a successful rehabilitation. Neck, shoulder, hip and core strength, as well as flexibility of the hamstrings and hip flexors are important for overall conditioning and can minimize any chances of an athlete sustaining a secondary injury. Because rugby is a continuously moving sport, working to regain a high level of endurance also plays a large role in the effectiveness of a player returning from a rugby injury.


  • Practice a balanced and structured training regimen involving strength, flexibility and endurance.
  • Always use proper technique when tackling, rucking and scrumming.
  • Learn proper positioning during game play to minimize risky moves
  • Maintain proper nutrition and hydration
  • Use a quality, properly fitted mouth guard
  • Participate at a level consistent with ability
  • Adhering to the rules for the formation of the scrum
  • Ask your athletic trainer or other sports medicine professionals about any training or injury questions.


We as Physiotherapists are skilled at diagnosing the specific injury , and then through multiple modalities , we are able to treat the various common conditions discussed above and accelerate injury repair.

  • Deep soft tissue release
  • Manual therapy and joint mobilisation
  • Electrotherapy
  • Shockwave therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Exercise rehabilitation

To prevent the injury recurring , a personalised strength and flexibility programme should be prescribed .

For the end of season and pre-season , players should seek our professional advice to do a screening and biomechanical assessment , as this will detect any abnormalities early on and then a structured programme can be designed for them as a preventative measure. This will hopefully allow the players to have less injury time during the season .

Clinton Grobbelaar

( Physiotherapist )

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