Date Published: 23 October 2017

New warm-up regime expected to reduce rugby injuries

A simple, yet effective, new rugby injury prevention exercise programme has been found to have a significant impact on reducing the incidence of both concussion and lower limb injuries. This is the outcome of collaboration1 between Bath University (Somerset, England) and the Rugby Football Union (based in Twickenham, London).

The injury prevention routine, named 'Activate'2, involves a 20-minute exercise programme performed by rugby players before training and pre-match. It is a carefully designed and researched warm-up regime that focuses on balance, strength and agility in order to effectively prepare players for the physical challenges they expect to face in matches.

As part of the recent study researchers evaluated the effectiveness of this exercise programme by following the progress of 81 rugby club teams and almost 2,000 rugby players over the course of a season. The information collected indicated that concussion injuries were reduced by up to 60% with lower-limb injuries reduced by up to 40% when the injury prevention programme was followed. They also found that the greater the compliance among players, the better the impact in terms of injury reduction. The best results occurred when teams practised the warm-up at least twice a week.

Dr Simon Roberts from Bath University's Department for Health explained 3:

" By replacing stretching exercises that players typically do before training and matches with exercises that focus on better control of movement, we have seen a dramatic reduction in injuries in this study.
_ This new programme is markedly different from the kind of warm-up players might typically take part in during training or pre-match with a much greater focus on movement control. Combining the impressive results on injury reduction with the national roll-out of this programme with England Rugby, we are particularly excited by the potential for this work in making a long-term impact on the game
."

Prof Keith Stokes, Head of Bath University's Department for Health, who lead the work said 3:

" The injury that has received the greatest focus in recent years has been concussion. At present we are not clear about the precise mechanisms by which the programme reduces concussion incidence, but this is a particularly interesting finding."

The Activate Injury Prevention Exercise is a key element of England Rugby's 'Rugby Safe' programme, their overarching player welfare awareness initiative. Steve Grainger, RFU Rugby Development Director, said 3:

" This is a really exciting opportunity for us to improve player safety and reduce injuries across game. Since launching the Activate programme at the beginning of September we've already seen hundreds of coaches sign up to access the online resources and complete the face to face training.
_ Having this strong evidence behind the programme we hope that coaches appreciate the importance of it and integrate the exercises into their training and pre-match routines to ensure their players are in the best position possible when taking to the field
."

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