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Targeted exercise programme reduces injury rate in youth rugby

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A newly devised exercise programme has a “dramatic effect” in reducing injuries among young rugby players, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The research was led by the University of Bath’s Department for Health and the Rugby Football Union (RFU). It showed that getting schoolboy rugby players to complete new balance, strength and movement exercises in training and before matches can reduce injuries by over 70%.

The School Injury Prevention Study was a cluster-randomised controlled trial which involved 40 schools and nearly 2,500 players aged 14-18 who received either the intervention or a reference programme, both of which were delivered by school coaches.

Developed by the research team as part of the study, the new training and pre-match exercise programme focuses on balance, strength and agility in order to better prepare players for the physical challenges they face in matches and to mitigate potential injury risks. It takes about 20 minutes to complete, taking the form of: a running warm-up with change of direction activities (2 minutes); lower-limb balance training (4 minutes); targeted resistance exercises (8 minutes); plus jumping, side-stepping and landing exercises (6 minutes).

The researchers found that overall injuries fell by 72% when players completed the new exercises at least three times a week, and concussion injuries were reduced by 59%.

The RFU, which commissioned the study, will roll out the findings across the community game and is developing training resources for clubs, schools and coaches.

“We invested in this ground-breaking study as part of our commitment to player welfare. It is a key step in our systematic approach to injury prevention,” said Dr Mike England, RFU community rugby medical director.

“The results are impressive and we hope that a related study showing similar effects in the adult community game will be published soon.”

Dr Martin Raftery, chief medical officer for World Rugby, added: “World Rugby applauds the RFU and the University of Bath on another important and high-quality piece of research that further demonstrates rugby’s commitment to an evidence-driven player welfare approach. We will discuss with both parties how this body of work can be applied to benefit the global game.”