What are the most common rugby league injuries?

Rugby Injury


In rugby league, like in any contact sport, acute injuries are unfortunately quite common. Given it is a contact sport, most injuries are traumatic after a hard tackle, however some can be non-traumatic as the game includes frequent bursts of sprinting, cutting and acceleration.

The most common injuries in rugby league include:


Those who play contact sports are at risk of collision related injury. of all rugby injuries, Concussion is taken most seriously. Concussions are a significant concern and the awareness about how to best manage them is growing. Typically, a concussion occurs directly from a direct injury or blow to the head. In essence, it is a minor brain injury and should be taken very seriously. Symptoms can include:

  1. Headache:
  2. Confusion:
  3. Memory problems:
  4. Nausea or vomiting:
  5. Dizziness or balance problems:
  6. Sensitivity to light or noise:
  7. Fatigue:
  8. Sleep disturbances:
  9. Mood changes:
  10. Blurred vision or double vision:

There are now very strict guidelines for return to play, particularly for a rugby player. Any symptoms of concussion should be taken seriously as we know there can be serious short and long term side-effects from this injury.

Shoulder and elbow injuries:

Rugby players often suffer from shoulder injuries such as dislocations, rotator cuff tears or acromioclavicular joint sprains, due to the tackling and tackling techniques involved in the game. The shoulder is a complex joint and cops a lot of external load in a tackle. Maintaining good shoulder strength and stability is important for reducing your risk of injury. The elbow on the other hand can come under a lot of stress with hyperextension injuries, particularly when going into a tackle with an outstretched arm. There are various taping techniques your physio can use to help minimise the risk of injury to these areas during match play.

Knee injuries:knee injury

ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears, MCL (medial collateral ligament) injuries, and meniscus tears are common in rugby due to sudden changes in direction, pivoting, and tackling. Strength training, and injury prevention programs have been shown to minimise the risk of these non-traumatic sports injuries, however, excessive force that hyper extends the knee or forces it sideways from a tackle is difficult to avoid.

Ankle injuries:

Ankle sprains can occur from sudden twists or impacts during play, especially during tackles or changes in direction. A simple ankle strapping technique can be a good way from getting you back playing sooner.

Hamstring strain:

Sprinting, sudden stops, and changes in direction can lead to a hamstring tear, which are quite common in rugby players. Our muscles come under serious load when having to accelerate and decelerate quickly. A hamstring strain can have degrees of severity where there may be a slight overstretching of the muscles, to a major muscle tear. There is good evidence supporting hamstring exercise performed during rugby practice to help reduce the risk of a tear during the season.

Fractures and breaks:

Bones can be fractured or broken due to the physical nature of the game, such as collarbone fractures from heavy tackles or impact with other players.

Head and neck injuries:

Head injuries can range from lacerations and bruises to more severe injuries such as fractures of the nose, cheekbones, or jaw due to collisions or accidental contact. The neck can also undergo sudden jolting movements which can cause whiplash, stingers or burners.

Rib injuries: rib injury

Rib fractures or bruising can result from direct impacts, tackles, or being tackled by opponents. It is common to use bubble wrap or foam padding when returning from this type of rugby injury.

Lower back injuries:

Strains and muscle spasms in the lower back can occur due to the physical demands of the sport, including tackling and scrummaging.

Growing pain – Severs

In the younger athlete, severs can be quite a limiting injury to deal with and is often associated with overuse of the calf muscle, tied in with sudden growth spurts. Rugby involves a lot of straight line running, but also a lot of back tracking which places high demand on the calves, and for the younger player, a high demand on the growth plate at the heel.

It is important for rugby league players to receive proper medical attention for any injuries and to undergo rehabilitation to ensure a safe return to play. Additionally, measures such as proper warm-up, conditioning, and tackling techniques can help reduce the risk of injury.

Should I see a professional about my rugby injury?

Most definitely! Rugby is a very high demand sport and keeping your body in pristine condition (or as best as we can) will help to reduce your risk of getting injured.

Waiting for the pain to go away is not always the best indicator of whether you are ready to get back to playing. A physiotherapist will be able to assess your rugby injury and ability to return to sport, reduce your pain, and get you on the right track for recovery to help you to reduce the risk of re injury when getting back into training and game days.

Can I reduce the risk of injury?

Yes! But we can never entirely prevent ourselves from getting injured, particularly when we are playing full contact sports.

Typically, strength, mobility and stability training are effective ways of keeping your body in good condition outside of playing sports. However, things like attending training regularly, preparing for your game and getting good recovery afterwards are just as important to keep you playing rugby longer. Good preparation should include a proper warm up and adequate nutrition and sleep, not just jumping on the foam roller before you play.

We at Lilyfield Physio have a team of highly skilled sports physiotherapists who would love to help you get back into full fitness and playing rugby ASAP!


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