2015 was a bad year for Rugby Union, for England at least in considering our early exit from the event we were actually hosting. Apart from that it was a great World Cup, with 2.5 million spectators across the 48 matches played throughout the tournament, making it the most attended World Cup ever and creating new followers to the sport.
It is amazing what difference a few months can make however with the Six Nations almost finished and England back on top and in contention to take their first Grand Slam since 2003 when they take on France on Saturday. England currently lead the Grand Slam standings with 12 in total ahead of Wales with 11 and then France with 9, so they will be looking to end their 13 year wait and once again become the dominant force of the Northern Hemisphere.
In a sport where players are pushing themselves to the limit to achieve success there is always the risk of injury, especially in such a physical sport as rugby. Time and time again however we see big tackles and big falls and the players jump straight back up and carry on, but injuries are common place, they just might not be as visible as those seen in football.
The hamstrings reside at the back of the leg and consist of three different muscles and are responsible for bending the knee. In sports such as rugby and football where players are required to spring from a standing start it can place a lot of pressure on the hamstrings resulting in injury. We have seen it many times before where a player in full stride suddenly pulls up and clutches the back of their leg, knowing they have pulled something. It important to note that if you suspect such an injury then you should stop what you are doing to avoid the problem becoming worse and resulting in a lengthier spell on the sidelines.
Typically a mild strain of the hamstring will not hurt immediately and only afterwards will you see a degree of swelling and hindered mobility. In severe cases, as seen with footballers, a popping can be heard which is the muscle rupturing and one of the main reasons a players stops immediately, not to mention that it is very painful.
There are three different grades of injury. A grade one is a mild sprain, something which will not be too painful and should heal naturally following up to a week of rest but it is important to take it easy to minimise the risk of causing further damage. A grade two is a slight tear of the muscle and can take several weeks to recover from. It is advisable to seek medical advice as you may be referred to a physiotherapist to work on strengthening exercises. A grade three is a complete tear or rupture and as well as being painful is also very visible with clear bruising. In such cases surgery may be required to repair the muscle along with an extended period on the sidelines.
Whilst it is impossible to protect against an injury of this nature you can be more aware of it, taking it easy should you feel a pain and working on strengthening the muscle group. Compression shorts are often used to apply compression to the region whilst also minimising muscle vibration.
In sports such as rugby and American Football the long term effects of head injuries in the sport are only now being understood. In these sports the head is vulnerable, especially in tackles, with 20% of all injuries relating to the head.
The latest set of rules state that a player should receive immediate medical attention where an injury to the head has been sustained to attempt to diagnose the severity. In the event of the medical team have any doubt as to the severity of the injury the player will not be allowed to continue and further tests will be performed on leaving the pitch.
Where a player has been diagnosed with concussion then they are not permitted to take part in any activity for three weeks, which includes both training and playing competitively. This is to allow time for the body to heal and minimise the risk of further damage being caused.
In recent years we have seen more and more players donning head guards, offering an additional level of protection for the player against impact. We have also seen this in other sports with the likes of Petr Cech of Arsenal who suffered a horrific head injury which almost ended his career whilst playing for Chelsea.
A head guard also helps to protect from side impact to the skull and minimise the chances of developing cauliflower ears in later life from continuous impact. This is something being encouraged amongst the younger players in schools and clubs, with the former now actually focusing on tag rugby to avoid impact and collisions.
Ankle injuries come in a variety of forms and as with muscle based injuries have three different grades. These types of injuries can occur following a slip or a bad challenge and the risk of injury is increased where a player is fatigued as this promotes instability.
A grade one sprained ankle is something we are all likely to experience at some stage and something the NHS diagnoses over 1.5million of every year. This occurs where the ankle moves suddenly beyond its range of motion and stretches the ligaments. Typically a few days of rest and some ice to help manage inflammation will do the trick.
A grade two sprain is where a slight tear to the ligament is experienced which can lead to instability and an ability to walk or run. Treatment normally involves rest as well as strengthening exercises to rebuild strength in the affected ligament. During recovery you may wish to wear a stirrup brace which prevents the ankle from rolling when active.
A grade 3 is the most severe and is where the ligament either tears or completely ruptures. This will normally involve surgery to repair the affected ligament followed by a period in either a cast or walker boot before physiotherapy can begin.
As with most sports injuries there is no real way in which these types of injuries can be prevented however if you have suffered an ankle injury once then there is an inherent weakness and you are more likely to suffer from another in the future. Ankle braces can be worn prophylactically to control the range of motion of the joint.
Fractures and dislocations of the thumb
Fractures and dislocations to the thumb is one of the one most common hand injuries sustained, with dislocations of the thumb common in sports such as rugby and football. Such injuries, also known as Bennett’s fracture can occur following a fall or a challenge. Depending on the severity of the injury you may need to have the bone realigned before being placed in either a cast or rigid wrist support to protect the joint and allow it time to heal.
Impact injuries from tackles and scrum s can lead to shoulder based injuries. These can vary from dislocations to rotator cuff damage and as such the difference between physiotherapy and surgery in terms of treatment options. Impact damage can also lead to broken collar bones.
Damage to the shoulder is normally fairly noticeable from the outset, therefore it is advisable to stop and seek medical attention. In rugby a player suffering from a shoulder injury is not able to continue and in a competitive contact sport it would be ill-advised.