Injury spate needs research

England will go into their Autumn international test series without their first choice front row and a batch of other injuries keeping Martin Johnson busy with his selection.  In recent weeks it seems that players are being sidelined with alarming regularity.  In particular it is the shoulder that is the current fad for injury with 5 potential English starters out due to issues with the joint.

The Times (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/rugby_union/article6881917.ece) recently reported on the RFU’s use of GPS accelerometer units being used to collect data on the velocities, accelerations and decelerations at the tackle for use in injury prevention.  The shoulder joint itself, while being very versatile and mobile, is also very vulnerable particularly when at end of range and relies heavily on the conditioning of the surrounding musculature for its’ stability. Factor in the forces at the point of contact and you have a recipe for injury.

Rugby Union probably has a greater risk of collision injury than any other contact sports.  Rugby League tends to have a fairly ritual contact situation lacking the same variety than those seen on a union field and American Football doesn’t have the same fatigue (a major factor in maintaining joint stability) levels.  The RFU findings may lead to more recommendations on player conditioning perhaps to increase emphasis on improving the proprioceptive ability of the joint and its’ ability to work under fatigue.

One aspect that I hope will be covered will be the player management issue mentioned by Dr James Robson, the British Lions doctor on their summer tour. He has spoken about more need for better player management (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/jul/05/lions-doctor-james-robson-physical-tour) to help reduce the incidence of injury.  Teams currently play 22 games in the premiership season, add on European cup, anglo-welsh cup , international matches (higher intensity) and playoff games and you see the high demands placed on players.  Playing careers and livelihoods are being placed at risk and the monetary bottom line is the primary reason.  Teams in the NFL each play 16 games in their regular season…in total.  I’d like to see some data on their injury rates!

Neil Welch

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