In a recent NZ Herald was an article on how repeated head injury and concussion can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. As we start gearing up for the winter rugby season, now is the time to think about injury prevention and what young players can do to future proof their bodies and careers.
Over the last 14 years I’ve had the opportunity to work with and treat many up-and-coming rugby players and I am often dismayed when I see a player with loads of talent come unstuck because of a preventable injury.
In today’s world of professional sport, injury prevention can mean the difference between local club star and a professional contract. Almost 50 percent of all injuries cause a reduction in speed, power and agility up to 12 months after that injury.
Research is showing us that increased neck strength not only protects the neck from injury but also reduces the risk of concussion.
The same research shows that the average 18-year-old front rower has a lower neck strength profile compared with a 22-year-old, yet other strength tests of shoulder and back can be the same. This basically means that the youth rugby player needs to really focus on building neck strength.
Proper core training such as Oov Core Stability is helping show a reduction in knee ligament injuries. When the coach has the skills to teach and rehearse proper landing, cutting and agility techniques, the incidence of knee injuries such as ACL, MCL injury start to drop.
In youth rugby there should be no excuse for a hamstring strain. We now know that good core stability combined with Nordic hamstring drops will prevent hamstring strain. In my opinion every session should start with a set of Nordic Hamstring drops.
Flexibility is another area that is often missed in youth sport. Lack of flexibility is an injury waiting to happen, because often during a growth spurt the bones grow faster than the muscles. Therefore not stretching will make a tight structure even tighter.
The number of professional rugby players going to yoga stretching classes on a weekly basis is growing and the benefits can be from injury prevention to lengthening a player’s career.
The final thing I see young players struggling on is the area of good nutrition. As the saying goes, garbage in garbage out most definitely is the case. Simply put; reduce sugar, avoid alcohol, increase green leafy vegetables (roast vegies don’t cut it) and drink plenty of water.