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Common Injuries in Rugby

It only takes a few seconds of watching rugby before you realise why injuries are common. The sheer velocity at which some players travel across the pitch and collide with each other means that problems are inevitable and unavoidable.

As with any sport, players of all ages and abilities can present with injuries ranging from sprains and strains to more serious dislocations or concussions.


Concussion has received a lot of press over the last few years.

Concussion is a brain injury that can range from mild to severe as a result of the brain being banged against the skull. It has long been the most common injury in Premiership rugby. In 2017-18, concussion accounted for 20% of all match injuries.

All concussions are serious, and you should not return to play until a medical expert has advised you it is safe to do so. You don’t have to be ‘knocked out’ and lose consciousness to suffer from concussion. There are many symptoms of concussion including but not exclusive to balance problems, drowsiness, nausea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, blurry vision and brain ‘fog’. The RFU has some really good information around concussion with its HEADCASE programme, but if in doubt seek medical advise.

Sprains and Strains

These can occur when muscles or ligaments become overstretched. This can happen when you change direction, stop or start suddenly, or fall or land awkwardly.

Sprains and strains are one of the most common of all sports injuries. With these actions being repeated during a match and in training, it’s little surprise that they feature in the list of top rugby injuries.

Physiotherapy can help rebuild strength and mobility in overstretched ligaments and muscles, although in severe cases surgery may be required.

Dislocated Shoulders

Shoulders can become dislocated during a tackle or fall if the arm is outstretched and you land awkwardly. In A and E this can be relocated back into place, although it is important to ensure that there are no other associated injuries, such as fractures.

After a period of rest, physiotherapy can effectively rebuild shoulder strength and is essential to help reduce the likelihood of future re-injury.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries, such as Bursitis (inflammation of the bursa, which acts like a cushion in the shoulder, elbow, knee and ankle joint) and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) are commonly seen in rugby players as well as many other sports.

Although not as serious as some of the trauma injuries, if left without appropriate treatment from your physiotherapist they could lead to a worse injury, and even reduced mobility, over time.

Slipped Disc

Contact sports like rugby are high-risk for neck and back injury such as a slipped disc or a disc prolapse. Repeated stress from tackling gradually breaks down the connective tissue around the discs in the neck and back.

Without this protective tissue, swelling can occur, pressing on nerve endings and resulting in pain. Physiotherapy can best help you with appropriate strengthening exercises to help prevent this from occurring.

AC Joint Separation

AC joint separation or AC joint sprain is an injury to the ligament that holds the joint at the top of your shoulder together. This usually occurs with a fall on the shoulder. One of the main symptoms is pain at the end of your collar bone, on top of the shoulder. Getting early treatment and support taping is important to avoid long-term problems.

No matter what level you play at, injuries are an inevitable part of rugby. However, the key to getting back to optimum fitness is knowing exactly how to manage the injury and getting the right treatment at the right time. You can also see us to help prevent some of these injuries occurring by getting prehab exercises to best prepare you for the rigours of rugby.

Phone: 0117 329 2090

2 McCrory P, Meeuwisse WH, Dvorak J, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport: The 5th international conference on concussion in sport, Berlin, October 2016. Bri J Sport Med. 2017;51:838-847


By Kelly Rotheram

March 2022

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