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Rugby injuries

Rugby is a tough, fast-moving sport that incurs a number of injuries from tackling and scrummaging. Many rugby injuries can be avoided with the use of protective gear but others may be unavoidable. Some of the more common rugby injuries are:

Contusions and lacerations

These represent a high percentage of rugby injuries. A contusion is another name for a bruise, which may result from a fall or impact. Scratches and lacerations may be superficial or deep, requiring debris to be removed from underlying layers of the skin. First aid treatment consists of ice and bandaging depending on the nature of the bruise or cut. Physiotherapy for more serious contusions (bruising) is very helpful in helping the body break down the inflammation, thus promoting faster healing rates and less long-term internal scarring.

Muscle strains

These can result from sudden force applied to the muscles during tackle. Poor conditioning, lack of flexibility and overuse can also lead to muscle pain. An injury of this type can be treated with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) followed by light activity including stretching and strengthening exercises. Your physiotherapist can perform a proper assessment, then set up a programme designed especially for you to help you return to rugby.


Fractures, usually of the clavicle (collar bone), are quite common among rugby players. Falling onto an outstretched arm or coming into contact with another player can lead to this type of fracture. There is extreme pain in the clavicle, swelling and sometimes a bony deformity. This injury calls for immediate medical attention. The bone may have to be immobilised in a sling or bandage. In some cases, surgery may be needed. Physiotherapy is needed to prevent stiffness and weakness of the shoulder and arm and to decrease pain.

Meniscal injuries

The menisci are bands of cartilage that act as shock absorbers to the knee and help distribute weight evenly between the tibia (shinbone) and the femur (thighbone). During tackles the medial meniscus is more likely to be injured as forces are impacted from the outside of the knee. Twisting of the knee may also lead to a meniscal tear. It is far more common to injure the medial meniscus (on the inside of the knee) than the lateral meniscus (on the outside of the knee). Symptoms are knee pain on the inner surface of the joint. Swelling usually occurs within a day or two of the injury and it may be difficult to bend the knee fully, bear weight, kneel, squat or climb stairs. The athlete should stop play and use the RICE formula (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Consulting with a physiotherapist is necessary for management of pain and inflammation and to set up a strengthening rehabilitation programme to help you return to rugby.

ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries

This type of knee injury occurs through a twisting force when the foot is firmly planted on the ground, an awkward land from a jump, decelerating to abruptly from running or it can occur as a result of direct trauma during rugby tackle. There may be an audible pop at the time of the injury, followed by knee pain, swelling and tenderness on the inner side and front of the knee. It may be difficult to walk or straighten the knee. With this type of knee injury, the athlete should stop the activity immediately and apply the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol. Surgery is often needed. Physiotherapy may be started beforehand in order to strengthen the knee and reduce swelling and is absolutely essential post-surgery to ensure a full return to rugby with a much reduced risk of re-injury.

Ankle sprains

Sprained ankles are another common rugby injury and are caused by the tearing of ligaments supporting the ankle. This is a painful condition requiring rest from play. Other symptoms are swelling, inflammation, difficulty walking, jumping and running. A serious ankle sprain can be more painful and take a longer time to heal than a broken bone. The RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) formula is always helpful but with any ankle ligament sprain the athlete should seek physiotherapy in order to promote flexibility and strength and reduce the risk of re-injury.

As with any injury, you can always call our clinic for an assessment and treatment plan.


We do not warrant or represent that the information in this site is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use. We recommend that you seek individual advice before acting on any information in this site. We have made every effort to ensure that the information on our website is correct at the time of publication but recommend that you exercise your own skill and care with respect to its use. If you wish to purchase our services, please do not rely solely on the information in this website.

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