Rugby

01 Overview

Rugby is a fast-paced contact sport that originated in England and is governed locally by BC Rugby. Played around the world, there are several variations of rugby, including rugby union, rugby league, and rugby sevens. All variations involve running with the ball in the hand towards H-shaped goalposts on either side of the field. The contact nature of rugby can increase your risk of injuries, including to the head, knee, and ankle.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Knee sprains and strains are some of the most common injuries for rugby players.

Concussions can occur in rugby.

Ankle sprains and strains are very common in rugby players.

Shoulder dislocation and/or subluxation are common injuries in rugby players.

02 Injury Statistics

The most common injuries in rugby are sprains and strains, bruising or larger hematomas, lacerations, and concussions. Injury rates vary depending on age and skill level. Male professional rugby players can experience 35 to 123 times within 1,000 hours of play. Union and league players between 10 and 18 years of age can experience 4 to 130 injuries within 1,000 hours of play.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

View Summary of Incidence Rates

03 Risk Factors

  • Training Load

    Increased training load can increase the risk of injury in rugby. This has been specifically examined among professional male rugby players.

  • Fatigue

    Fatigue has been linked to the risk of injury among international rugby sevens players.

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. It is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in rugby.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of head and neck, upper limb and concussion injuries in rugby can be reduced by up to 35% by regular participation in a rugby exercise program. This exercise program includes balance, resistance, and plyometric training, as well as sport-specific controlled landing and cutting training. Completing this warm-up program can lower the likelihood of ankle and knee injuries.

    ACC SportSmart
    The New Zealand government has supported the creation of a warm-up program based on the FIFA 11+. This program has been shown to reduce injuries in rugby, and has exercises for both the upper and lower body.

    Learn more about ACC SportSmart, which has training videos and other resources.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, Get Set contains exercises that are specific to rugby.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Concussions in Rugby
    For more information on concussions in rugby, New Zealand Rugby has a RugbySmart Concussion Toolkit.

    BokSmart has a website called “Heads Up: Prevent Concussions”.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Rugby is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of head and neck, upper limb and concussion injuries in rugby can be reduced by up to 35% by regular participation in a rugby exercise program. This exercise program includes balance, resistance, and plyometric training, as well as sport-specific controlled landing and cutting training. Completing this warm-up program can lower the likelihood of ankle and knee injuries. Incorporate this program into your regular training/practice routines.

    ACC SportSmart
    The New Zealand government has supported the creation of a warm-up program based on the FIFA 11+. This program has been shown to reduce injuries in rugby, and has exercises for both the upper and lower body.

    Learn more about ACC SportSmart, which has training videos and other resources.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, Get Set contains exercises that are specific to rugby.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for safely implementing rugby in schools.

    Learn more about implementing flag/touch rugby in elementary schools.

    Learn more about implementing rugby-tackle in secondary schools.

    Concussions in Rugby
    For more information on concussions in rugby, New Zealand Rugby has a RugbySmart Concussion Toolkit.

    BokSmart has a website called “Heads Up: Prevent Concussions”.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Rugby is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of head and neck, upper limb and concussion injuries in rugby can be reduced by up to 35% by regular participation in a rugby exercise program. This exercise program includes balance, resistance, and plyometric training, as well as sport-specific controlled landing and cutting training. Completing this warm-up program can lower the likelihood of ankle and knee injuries. Inform coaches about this type of exercise program and suggest that it becomes part of regular training/practice routines.

    ACC SportSmart
    The New Zealand government has supported the creation of a warm-up program based on the FIFA 11+. This program has been shown to reduce injuries in rugby, and has exercises for both the upper and lower body.

    Learn more about ACC SportSmart, which has training videos and other resources.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Centre, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to rugby.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for safely implementing rugby in schools.

    Learn more about implementing flag/touch rugby in elementary schools.

    Learn more about implementing rugby-tackle in secondary schools.

    Concussions in Rugby
    For more information on concussions in rugby, New Zealand Rugby has a RugbySmart Concussion Toolkit.

    BokSmart has a website called “Heads Up: Prevent Concussions”.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Rugby is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing rugby injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to players, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured players are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to rugby to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of head and neck, upper limb and concussion injuries in rugby can be reduced by up to 35% by regular participation in a rugby exercise program. This exercise program includes balance, resistance, and plyometric training, as well as sport-specific controlled landing and cutting training. Completing this warm-up program can lower the likelihood of ankle and knee injuries. Inform athletes and coaches about this type of exercise program and suggest that it becomes a part of regular training/practice routines.

    ACC SportSmart
    The New Zealand government has supported the creation of a warm-up program based on the FIFA 11+. This program has been shown to reduce injuries in rugby, and has exercises for both the upper and lower body.

    Learn more about ACC SportSmart, which has training videos and other resources.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, Get Set contains exercises that are specific to rugby.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Concussions in Rugby
    For more information on concussions in rugby, New Zealand Rugby has a RugbySmart Concussion Toolkit.

    BokSmart has a website called “Heads Up: Prevent Concussions”.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Rugby is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.