The Rugby World Cup may be a year away, but some of the sport’s biggest stars are already out of the tournament. Ireland’s Garry Ringrose, New Zealand’s Nehe Milner-Skudder, South Africa’s Jaco Kriel and Australia’s Izack Rodda, have all been impacted by shoulder injury which sees them potentially missing out on World Cup glory.
Rugby is renowned for its increased risk of shoulder injuries, but the incidence rate appears to have increased in recent years. Not only are rugby-related shoulder injuries becoming more commonplace, but their severity is also increasing too. Here, we’ll explore the type of shoulder injuries common in rugby players and what could be done to prevent them.
Which types of shoulder injuries are rugby players commonly exposed to?
There are a lot of different types of shoulder injuries rugby players are exposed to. However, the most common appear to be:
Labral tears – Out of all of the different shoulder injuries rugby players face, labral tears are one of the most common. The Labrum is incredibly important for proper shoulder function. The cartilage basically provides additional support for the bones within the shoulder. If it tears, it can have a significant impact on the shoulder movement.
In rugby players, a labral tear can occur due to an awkward fall, dislocation, direct impact, or overuse of the shoulder. It’s a painful injury, with the pain worsening when the arm is lowered or raised. Some patients may also hear a popping sound alongside movement of the shoulder.
Rotator cuff injuries – Another common injury, the rotator cuff can become damaged during rugby tackles, or due to an awkward fall. It’s typically injured when the player lands with their arm extended, causing pressure to push the arm too far backwards or downwards.
There are different grades of rotator cuff injuries, with full tears of the tendon being the least common, but most severe a player could face. These types of injuries are also more difficult to treat.
Shoulder instability – Players can develop shoulder instability due to overuse or a sudden injury. With this condition, the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder’s socket at the head.
While shoulder instability is most commonly associated with overhead sports, it can occur gradually in rugby players; particularly if they have suffered previous dislocation of the shoulder.
What could be done to prevent shoulder injury in the rugby player?
There are a number of ways rugby players can reduce their chances of suffering shoulder-related injuries.
Firstly, building up strength and flexibility within the upper body will help protect the joints. The more flexible the shoulder joint is, the less likely it will become damaged during a bad fall or direct impact. To prevent injuries caused by overuse of the shoulder, it is important for players to adequately rest between training and matches.
Although it is possible to prevent some rugby-related shoulder injuries, in direct contact sports there is always an increased risk. If you do develop a shoulder injury, the best thing you can do is seek treatment as soon as possible. Problems arise and careers are ruined, when players do not seek immediate treatment. The longer a shoulder injury is left untreated, the worse it becomes and the higher the risk a player will have long-term shoulder issues.