Long gone are the days of simply applying the ‘magic sponge’ for rugby injury recovery! A revolutionary study has claimed that by following a series of exercises performed during the warm-up period of rugby matches can drastically reduce injury, with the game’s coaches now hoping this will disprove claims they aren’t taking the issue of concussion sincerely.
Referred to as Activate, the new warm-up programme comes as a result of a project by health researchers at the University of Bath and England Rugby. The results, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, cite that the exercises included in the regime can significantly reduce concussion and lower limb injuries. This is not only good news in the long-term but also in the short-term as teams head into the winter months when injuries are more common.
What Did the Research Entail and What Were the Findings?
Researchers tracked the progress of 81 men’s community rugby club teams throughout the season, which is just short of 2,000 players. During the season, players were required to carry out the programme. The results were quite remarkable. For example:
- Incidence of concussion reduced by up to 60%
- Lower-limb injuries dropped by up to 40%.
For the players who stuck more closely to the programme guidelines, the effect was heightened. In fact, the peak results came when teams practised the warm-up at least twice a week.
What is the New Rugby Warmup Based On?
The regime’s focal points are centred around the following;
The combination of these three elements allows players to better prepare themselves for the physical challenges that are expected in rugby matches.
Divided up into four stages, the regime takes around 20 minutes to complete. The exercises focus on improving functional and core strength, predominantly lower-limb balance and neck strength. The warm-up is of course designed to assist a player in dealing with the physical demands of the game.
Speaking about the new regime, Dr Simon Roberts, one of the authors, from the University of Bath’s Department for Health said: “By replacing stretching exercises that players typically do before training and matches with exercises that focus on better control of movement, we have seen a dramatic reduction in injuries in this study.
“This new programme is markedly different from the kind of warm-up players might typically take part in during training or pre-match, with a much greater focus on movement control.
“Combining the impressive results on injury reduction with the national roll-out of this programme with England Rugby, we are particularly excited by the potential for this work in making a long-term impact on the game.”
Leading the study was Professor Keith Stokes. Mr Stokes added: “The injury that has received the greatest focus in recent years has been concussion. At present, we are not clear about the precise mechanisms by which the programme reduces concussion incidence, but this is a particularly interesting finding.”
The Game’s Concerns
There is currently a lot of concern related to the fact that serious rugby injuries are increasing, which could leave a blemish on the sport’s image.
Rising levels of professional players are being forced to exit the sport prematurely as a result of serious injury. World Rugby has acted to introduce more stringent sanctions for high tackles, but the effectiveness of the rule change has been questioned. A recent study of Premiership rugby in England concluded that rates of concussion have gone from 6.7 per 1,000 player hours in 2012-13 to 15.8 per 1,000 player hours in 2015-16. This latest figure works out to be one brain injury every couple of games, and concussion now accounts for a quarter of all rugby injuries.
The Activate programme has also focused its attention on schoolboy rugby and is set to be a vital element of England Rugby’s “Rugby Safe” initiative that endorses player welfare.
Steve Grainger, RFU rugby development director, said the initiative was a chance to improve player safety and reduce injuries across the game. “Since launching the Activate programme at the beginning of September, we’ve already seen hundreds of coaches sign up to access the online resources and complete the face to face training,” Grainger said. “Having this strong evidence behind the programme, we hope that coaches appreciate the importance of it and integrate the exercises into their training and pre-match routines to ensure their players are in the best position possible when taking to the field.”