Treating Foot Injuries In Young Rugby Players

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Rugby is a fantastic, yet uniquely demanding sport for its players. When players are young, any downtime due to foot injuries can have devastating effects – from having to miss large parts of seasons with their friends which will have them feeling down, to limiting their ability to run, play and participate in other everyday activities. This is why our podiatry team have four key focus areas in this case:



  • Effectively treating foot injuries
  • Making this care friendly for kids to help them keep leading active lives
  • Understanding the risks involved for each player based on their position on the field, specific to rugby
  • Preventing this injury from recurring in the future by putting the right measures in place now



If you or your young rugby player is starting to limp on the field, is experiencing any problems during or after their rugby game, or they’ve sustained an injury that isn’t getting better as you’d like, this is for you. This information on some of the main rugby foot injuries they’re likely to sustain, why they occur, and how they can be treated, will help you keep your young player at the top of their game.


Foot Injuries In Rugby

Studies show that up to three-quarters of foot injuries in rugby are acute injuries, meaning they’re sudden and come on quickly from an incident on the field. The other quarter are chronic injuries, meaning they are overuse injuries that develop over time, starting as a dull ache and progressing to more severe pain. The top four foot-related injuries we tend to see include:


  • Fractures (stress and regular) – Regular fractures are breaks in the bone that occur from direct impact – like a tackle in rugby. Stress fractures occur when high forces and pressure is put through a bone or area of the foot repetitively. This forms small cracks over time that may feel like a mild ache, to ones that grow bigger and can become very painful. Learn more about stress fractures here.


  • Ankle sprains – with the sprinting, the quick changes in direction and the tackles in rugby, ankle sprains are definitely at the top of the rugby injury list. When you sprain an ankle, you strain or even tear one or more of the ligaments responsible for keeping the ankle supported and stable, meaning walking quickly becomes uncomfortable and painful. While many try shrugging away ankle sprains, this can actually lead to an ongoing problem called chronic ankle instability, which is why it is very important to always treat ankle sprains properly and ensure your ankle fully recovers.


  • Turf toe – when you hyperextend your big toe upwards, suddenly and forcefully, the resulting pain and damage to the big toe joint is known as turf toe. This often happens during a fall or tackle, where the forefoot is still planted on the ground but the rest of the body and foot is thrust forwards.


  • Achilles pain – whether it’s from straining the Achilles tendon, the inflammation of a bursa between the Achilles tendon and the heel or growing pains at the back of the heel, pain in the region of the Achilles tendon is another common problem we see in rugby with the rapid running starts, sprints, and forces during a scrum.


While these four are high on the injuries list, we also go through phases of seeing other conditions like plantar fasciitis (heel and arch pain), capsulitis and bursitis (forefoot pain), painful toenail bruising and ingrown toenails, pain at the front of the ankle, and more.


Understanding Rugby Is Key To Effective Treatment

While using evidence-based medicine and innovative recovery treatments is an important part of recovery, when it comes to rugby, understanding the game goes a long way too for effective treatment and future injury prevention. 


Players who are positioned in the backs tend to cover greater total distances than forwards, while flankers devote the most time of the forwards in the high and maximal intensity speed zones. Due to their involvement in rucks, mauls, and scrums, forwards require an increased physical capacity to continue play following these events, even at a reduced pace. In contrast, backs alternate between bursts of speed followed by walking between various stops in play, so have a different work-to-rest ratio.


Factors like these, and many others, place different strains and forces on the feet for different periods of the game. This is something we always consider in relation to a persons unique foot type. For example, if you have a flatter foot type and are getting arch pain, and your position has you covering larger distances on average, then this helps guide our treatment and your care to help you get the best results now – and help the future prevention – we’ll detail that below.


Treating & Preventing Foot Injuries In Rugby

We believe that effective treatment isn’t just about treating the problem now – but also about doing what we can to help prevent the problem from returning in the future. Every treatment plan that our podiatrists create follows three steps:


One: Alleviate the initial painful symptoms – the pain and swelling that are restricting movement

Two: Work to repair the injury that developed – actively work to stimulate healing and repair in the injured bone and tissue as opposed to leaving it on its own and hoping that it heals the right way. This may involve using treatments such as low-level laser, the theragun, compression therapy, foot mobilisation and a number of other therapies we have available

Three: Knowing what contributed to the injury from the results of the biomechanical assessment, put the right measures in place to help prevent this from recurring in the future. This may involve using custom foot orthotics (also often involved in healing and repair), strengthening weak muscles, stretching tight muscles, improving performance as needed in rugby, selecting better rugby boots, and more


Sole Motion Works Extensively With Social & Competitive Young Rugby Players

Our podiatrists love working with young sportsmen and women to keep them playing the sports they love and staying at the top of their game. If you or anyone in your family is in pain, we’re here to help. Book an appointment online by calling 1300-FX-FEET or book online here.


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