This is a collaborative post.
If you’ve kept up with my previous posts, you’ll know that I started playing rugby a couple of years ago. Hopefully, some of my experiences will have encouraged you to give it a try yourself, or hopefully made you consider it at least. Rugby really is a fun and exciting sport, but it’s so important to learn how to play the game safely. So in this post, I’m sharing some top tips to prevent injuries in rugby.
Whether you’re a total novice or professional, you won’t want to do yourself an injury that’ll put you out of action for a while, or quickly land you on the bench. There’s so much to get out of this sport when it’s played correctly, so let’s dive in and take a look at some of the ways that you can play to your heart’s content and keep yourself all in one piece at the same time too.
Remember, there’s no way to completely avoid injuries in any sport, but by taking time to learn about physical fitness and your body’s strengths and limitations, you can adjust your skills and improve yourself accordingly.
Warm up, properly
It’s crucial to make sure your body is nice and warm before training, and especially right before your game; strains are up there on the classic error list when it comes to rugby. A fab warm-up should begin at a low-level intensity that gradually increases your heart rate and raises the temperature of your muscles.
The warm-up should then increase in intensity as you get going, and will likely include: light jogging, squats, lunge twists, walking high knee stretches, walking lunges, or quad kicks. Once you’re all kicked and squatted out, no doubt, you’ll be stretched and ready for some challenges on the pitch.
Gear up, sensibly
I’ve shared some tips on protective equipment for beginners at rugby before, but it’s important to stress it again here. Even if you’re only playing at a friendly or novice level, it’s likely you’ll still need to get properly suited and booted (so to speak) for the occasion.
There are different types of rugby boots for different positions, and also for different types of ground, depending on the time of year. Make sure you choose appropriately. That way, you’ll feel more confident knowing that you have the proper protection needed for the terrain, the contact and tackling, and also to keep you steady and safe. You’ll want to get a strong pair of boots with cleats or studs.
It’s also essential that you wear a mouthguard or gumshield to keep your jaw and teeth secure and protected. This is one piece of equipment that I would never, ever scrimp on or leave out. Some people don’t wear a gumshield to play rugby and that’s entirely their prerogative, but personally, I like my teeth exactly where they are and have no intentions of losing any of them any time soon. Get yourself a gumshield. Seriously.
Certain players may feel a bit more confident and comfortable wearing a scrum cap, which is a type of protective headgear that’s often recommended item to protect the head, ears and neck. In addition, some players also choose to wear padding, or ‘body armour’, under their shirts to reduce the impact from tackles, but this is mainly personal preference.
I wear an undershirt (which is basically a tight lycra long-sleeve top) under my team shirt, but that has more to do with keeping myself warm during the freezing cold games of November onwards!
Clue up on technique
If you’re a bit of a newbie, it’s unlikely that you’ll have learnt all of the rugby ropes just yet. Don’t worry, sometimes the best way to learn is to just get stuck in and do it, but there’s always going to be a benefit to getting yourself mentally prepared.
Still not sure? Never fear, with a little reading up, researching and practising in a non-game-based environment, you’ll soon suss things out.
Your club will almost certainly run training sessions weekly outside of scheduled games, but if not there’s still plenty you can do on your own to work on your technique. If you develop a training programme that you can refer back to the outside of your games, this will make things a whole lot easier.
Another top tip is to actually watch rugby being played. Watch it on the TV or online, but better yet, watch it in real life by going to local games. One of the best ways to clue up on technique is to start looking at how other players work. Look at how they move, how they use their feet, the way in which they pass the ball. There’s a lot you can learn just by watching others do it.
Social media is also a good source of information for beginners. Instagram in particular, is a good place to find short, specific tutorials for your position and skill set. Take some time to watch some passing drills and some rugby-based workouts and then try and implement them in your own training. It’ll make a big difference!
When it comes to tackling, always get as low as you can and tackle around the lower legs so that your opponent falls to the ground. Also, as the safe play rules suggest, try to hit the ground with your knees first when tackled, this way hopes to reduce some impact. Try to ensure that your shoulders and hips are the other areas that hit the ground when you fall.
Tackling does take some practice, but your coach will help you with this during training. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure, that’s what they’re there for, and no one expects you to be a master at it on the first go!
If you do get injured
There are no two ways about it, injuries do happen during rugby. But that’s not to say that they’ll put you off or hold you back, as long as you’re sensible and actually take the time you need to recover properly.
If you’re injured, don’t be tempted to play through the pain like some kind of last-action hero. No one will thank you for making yourself worse just so you can stay on the field. Remember that the adrenaline you feel during contact may mean that you might not feel the full effects of an injury until later.
If you’re hurting, make sure that you see your doctor and seek medical advice for any injuries on your body before you begin to play again. You may find that you need one of the following depending on your injury:
- Hearing Test
- Otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose & throat) check
- Sports Massage
With any luck, you won’t run into any injuries, and if you do, your doctor will be able to give you advice about how long to stay on the bench before you get right back out there!
Top tips to avoid injuries in rugby
There’s no magic wand that can be waved to stop injuries from happening. Part of playing rugby is the acknowledgement that it is a contact sport and the potential to get hurt a bit is there. However, if you’re sensible about it and prepare both your body and mind for the physicality of the sport, you’ll find there’s a lot to enjoy about the game.
If you’re thinking about giving rugby a go, check out your local club’s information on their Inner Warrior camps, which are a national programme designed to encourage more women into the sport. There’s never been a better time to get involved!
Do you have any thoughts on playing rugby? If you’ve got any questions about it then feel free to ask away in the comments.