So we checked the NRL injuries tally ahead of the Finals draw this weekend. The result? 77 players sustained injuries this season BEFORE the finals. Many of them have multiple injuries! And Rugby Union is much the same with regular changes in the starting 15 due to injury, and many players being escorted off the field during the game after a big blow from the opposition.
When you think about it, it’s not all that surprising really – both rugby league and rugby union is high impact, fast paced, there are quick stops, starts and direction changes and players are either running, being tackled/tackling or in a scrum. That’s a lot of constant force! Because we LOVE rugby and have started seeing more and more players coming in due to injury to their feet and legs, we thought we’d talk common rugby injuries in Podiatry!
Because the high-impact nature of rugby gives it a higher prevalence of traumatic injury compared with other non-contact sports like tennis, we thought we’d break it down into two categories: traumatic injuries and overuse injuries.
These are the ones attained as a result of a direct blow, like during a tackle. Some of the traumatic injuries we see include:
- Ankle Sprains – quick direction changes and side on tackles result in common ankle sprains, straining the supporting ankle ligaments.
- Fractures – bones are vulnerable to large impact forces during play and fracture when the force exceeds what they can normally tolerate.
- Tears in muscles, tendons and ligaments – impact to the lower limbs can cause muscles, tendons and ligaments to move in a way they weren’t designed for and can’t withstand, leading to a partial tear or at the worst case, a complete rupture.
- Turf toe – when a toe is jerked up and hyperextends, the toe joint (metatarsophalangeal joint) can become damaged and sprained. There may be several tissues surrounding the joint involved in this injury.
- Plantar plate injuries – the plantar plate is a ligamentous structure that runs along all the toes at the ball of your foot at the joints and connects them together to protect the joints and limit them from hyperextending which would damage the plantar plate (and may cause turf toe).
- Toenail damage – standing on one’s foot can not only damage bones and tissues but also the toenails! As a result they can thicken, fall away and become more vulnerable to infection – such as a fungal nail infection.
Overuse injuries are characterised by repetitive stress over time that lead to the damage of a muscle or tissue. Often they are associated with a biomechanical abnormality that stresses and overloads a structure past a point that it can normally handle. These can include:
- Peroneal Tendinopathy – repetitive stress on the peroneal tendons that run along the outside of your leg and into your foot.
- Heel pain (plantar fasciitis) – painful damage and inflammation of the plantar fascia at the bottom of your foot that often comes with heel pain on walking – especially first thing in the morning and on standing after rest.
- Achilles tendinopathy – pain and damage to the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel and up into the calves. This is often linked to tight calf muscles.
- Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD) – overuse of the posterior tibial tendon that runs down the inside if the leg and down into the foot. A big sign is difficulty standing on one foot! (make sure you support yourself if you try this)
- Sesamoiditis – damage to and inflammation of the sesamoid bones beneath the big toe joint, often associated with increased pressure over the joint from often engaging with and putting pressure at the bottom of your feet as well as the inward (medial) direction of forces with flat feet.
- Stress fractures – Unlike traumatic fractures, stress fractures occur with repetitive stress over time and appear more like tiny hairlines through the affected area of bone as opposed to a regular fracture.
- Knee pain – repetitive high impact forces through the knee can cause various problems with multiple knee structures – from straining ligaments like your medial collateral ligament (MCL) to wearing down knee cartilage and more! This can often leave the knee feeling fairly unstable.
- Shin splints – caused by stress to the tibia and also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), shin splints can bring with them a great deal of pain and inflammation at the front of the tibia (shin bone).
- Hamstring strain – straining or even tearing your hamstrings is painful and can stop you in your tracks! This is the group of muscles located at the back of your thigh and you may often hear of players saying they’ve ‘pulled’ their hamstrings.
These are just some of the many lower limb injuries that occur during rugby – and there are plenty more! While traumatic injuries are difficult to predict and control, there is plenty that can be done to minimise the risk of the many overuse injuries in rugby. These include:
- Good warm up and cool down routine to prepare muscles, joints and ligaments.
- Working on technique to move effectively and minimise strain and overuse (and maximise power!)
- Adequate footwear – you’re far more likely to sprain your ankle in an unsupportive rugby boot that lets your ankle roll around than a supportive. boot that stabilises the foot in the shoe and provides stability and control. Make sure you have the right gear!
- Start training and conditioning the body before the start of the season – most injuries occur at the beginning of the season so give yourself time to gradually increase training duration and intensity.
If you’ve come to the end of the season and are struggling with an injury and want to recover as best and quickly as possible without longstanding side effects and injury recurrence then come in and see our experts! We’ll help get you strong, healthy and injury-free! Call us on 1300-FX-FEET ☺