New exercise programme could cut injuries to rugby players

A study into injuries in young rugby players found overall injuries fell by 72 per cent when  20-minute exercise programme was followed. Picture: SNS Group
A study into injuries in young rugby players found overall injuries fell by 72 per cent when 20-minute exercise programme was followed. Picture: SNS Group
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Injuries in young rugby players could be reduced by more than 70 per cent thanks to a new 20-minute exercise programme, a study has found.

Players should complete the routine, which includes balance, strength and movement exercises, before matches and during training.

The study found overall injuries fell by 72 per cent, and concussion injuries by 59 per cent, when the routine was performed at least three times per week.

Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the three-year study involved 40 schools and nearly 2,500 players aged between 14 and 18.

Recommendations from the study will be rolled out nationwide by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in preparation for next season.

Researchers from the University of Bath, who led the study with the RFU, developed the new exercise programme as part of the study.

It focuses on balance, strength and agility in order to prepare players for challenges they face in matches and to mitigate potential injury risks.

Dr Mike England, community rugby director at the RFU, said: “The results are impressive and we hope that a related study showing similar effects in the adult community game will be published soon.”

The season-long exercise programme, which is split into four stages, takes roughly 20 minutes to complete.

It is aimed at players in under-15 to under-18 age groups.

It consists of a two-minute running warm-up with change-of-direction activities, four minutes of lower-limb balance training, eight minutes of targeted resistance exercises and six minutes of jumping, side-stepping and landing exercises.

Specific exercises change every four weeks to reflect the progress made by the players.

The study was led by Professor Keith Stokes from the University of Bath. He said: “Over recent years, injury risk in youth rugby has received much attention, highlighting the importance of establishing new, evidence-based injury reduction strategies.

“Our results are exciting because they show that carrying out a simple set of exercises on a regular basis can substantially reduce injuries in youth rugby.

“We believe these findings will have a significant impact in helping to improve player welfare, making the game safer for young players to enjoy.”

The RFU, which commissioned the study, will roll out the findings across the community game and are developing training resources for clubs, schools and coaches.