In recognition of the Six Nations Rugby Championship, we decided to speak to an expert in sports medicine to understand some of the risks athletes face in high-impact sports and the best ways they can be treated. Dr Ralph Rogers, former First Team Doctor to Chelsea FC and currently Medical Adviser to the NBA (and a lead clinician at Living Room Health) is an authority on such matters.
What are some of the most common injuries seen in rugby?
The most common injury is probably just cuts and laceration. Concussions (brain injury that can range from mild to severe as a result of the brain being banged against the skull). Of course, dislocated fingers and elbows too, and injuries to sprained ligaments and strained tendons. There are also dislocated shoulders and overuse injuries.
Do high-impact injuries make your job more difficult? If so, how?
They don’t make it more difficult necessarily. If there is an acute fracture, these injuries should be seen by an orthopaedic surgeon for assessment and treatment.
It’s also extremely important to note that injuries nowadays look very different to 10-15 years ago. Over the last few years, players have gotten faster, heavier, and stronger. I think it’s Newton’s second law that says that force equals mass x acceleration, so if you have got a young man who is heavier and faster, then the force of the impact will be greater. This is why the injuries are more dynamic and more I dare say lethal now than they were let’s say 20 years ago.
How would you best approach getting a player back to full fitness after a rugby injury?
For elite athletes especially, it’s a team effort. You often have a sports physician, a consultant, a nutritionist, a physiotherapist, a sports therapist, a rehab specialist, and maybe even an osteopath or chiropractor, all of whom work together to get the player ready and match fit.
Often, they will also have a sports psychologist. I just got back from working with the NBA and I met an incredible sports psychologist from the Detroit, Pistons (Dr Corey Yeager), and he is an integral member of the team. He’s involved in player performance and helps them deal with anxiety and gets athletes ready to play. If you have been someone who is very, very fit, but get’s even a minor injury, often they will be anxious getting back into the game. Usually, these young players need help psychologically to be able to handle the stress on the pitch. Not everybody is so robust that they are able to handle these kinds of stressors.
There were doubts England player Courtney Lawes would make the opening game of Six Nations Rugby due to a new calf injury. Even with great resources, why do injuries like these still come up?
That’s a really great topic because you cannot prevent an injury. You can decrease the risk, but you are not going to prevent injury of any kind in contact sports. What we can do is prepare athletes for their sport. Training is about decreasing the risk of injury a lot of the time, but you are not going to prevent injury.
With regards to Courtney Lawes, his injury could have been caused by a number of factors; I do not know the patient/ player to fully comment on his injury.
If you are suffering from a sporting injury that’s stopping you live an active life, you can speak to one of our consultants by completing our contact form.