Rugby players continue to suffer from long-term injuries after retirement more than any other athletes in the world. The sport brings a risk of injury at all levels of the game. Retired professional rugby players are 10 times more likely to suffer from injuries.
Rugby is a sport that is played by over 8.5 million people in the world. There are two types of rugby, the rugby union and rugby league. Both are played in two halves of 40 minutes but differ in the number of players, 15 for union and 13 for league.
The sport is famous for not having any gears while playing, and players often get involved in high tackles and dangerous plays during the game. These can lead to minor to serious injuries that can affect them even after retirement.
Research By Durham’s Sport And Exercise Scientists
Durham University‘s sport and exercise scientists conducted various research to find ways to prevent recurrent injuries and help players from long-term injuries after retirement. Concussion was the most common injury among rugby players, with most players suffering at least one during their career.
Elite and amateur players in rugby union and league have reported severe back pain and joint pain due to the long-term impacts they accumulated from cumulative injuries. Half of them also reported that they sustained knee ligament injuries.
Osteoarthritis was also common among players, and they were twice as likely to suffer from the disease compared to athletes who play non-contact sports.
The leader of the project, Dr. Karen Hind, said, “It is clear from these findings that playing rugby union or rugby league is associated with lasting impacts in terms of injury and pain. Although there have been initiatives and rule changes to try to make the game safer, the rates of injury across a player’s entire career are still very high.”
The study was in collaboration with academics from the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. After comparing 254 male rugby players and non-contact athletes like cricketers, they found out that the frequency of recurrent injuries for rugby players was massively higher than that of cricket players.
Dr. Hind added, “Importantly, our findings highlight a need for programs to support professional players post-retirement, in managing the long-term impacts of injuries sustained during their career.”
According to a former rugby player, Jon SleightHolme, the long-term effects of playing rugby at the elite level shows implications after their careers have finished, and some of the symptoms do not even appear until several years after retirement.
The Gallagher Premiership
The Gallagher Premiership will return on Aug. 14 after a 159-day hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Clubs will resume playing until Oct. 24, the date of the playoff finals. However, institutions like the Brain Injury Association Headway is concerned about the increased chance of concussions sustained by players when the sport returns.
Headway’s deputy chief executive Luke Griggs said, “The longer the brain has to recover from any kind of impact, regardless of whether concussion as diagnosed, the less likelihood of a compounding effect from subsequent blows.”
Griggs was worried that players would get tired very easily after the long hiatus, and the increase in fatigue leads to a higher risk of head injuries for the players. He hopes the Premiership resumes while ensuring players’ safety and continues to find ways to protect the athletes.