Rugby Proof: Injury Prevention

Welcome to the Rugby Proof series by Rugby Renegade. In this article we are going to discuss our injury prevention approach for rugby players. 

A lot of attention has been given to injury prevention for rugby players. No player wants to be off the field for any amount of time and a philosophy of “prevention is better then cure” is certainly in every players best interest.

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It will never be possible to prevent all injuries on the rugby field. It is an increasingly physical and powerful sport. If you’ve read any of our articles on rugby injuries you’ll be familiar that our philosophy centres on giving rugby players the tools to deal with the demands of the game rather than reducing or removing the demands of the game we love. 100% risk free rugby does not exist. However, it is possible to reduce the risk of injury. The lawmakers of the game have been incredibly successful in reducing the risk of head and neck injuries by adjusting and changing the laws around the scrum and tackle. What has also been shown to be effective in reducing injuries is for players to complete regular strength training as well as dedicated injury prevention work that focuses on muscular control, strength and coordination of movement. This can be achieved by exposing yourself to situations that you will experience on the rugby field but in a controlled and progressive manner. 

Our injury prevention strategy has been developed into 5 distinct phases and these will be presented in the following order. 

Load Management

Range of movement and activation


Power, Speed & Reactivity

Embrace the Chaos

This is a framework that can be followed to prevent injuries in any joint or muscle. Use the buttons included in this article to find out more about specific injuries and get some ideas on how to prevent them. 

Load Management

All injuries are ultimately a problem with load management. They can either be the immediate and acute injuries that are caused by the rapid application of force to a structure that it can’t handle, causing it to break, snap or tear. An example would be a shoulder dislocating during a collision, or a hamstring tearing during an acceleration. A rapid application of force that the body can’t handle.

The other more subtle load management injuries can be caused by inappropriate training volume, inadequate recovery or a combination of the two that leads to structures ending up in a chronically inflamed state like a patella tendon for example. 

To optimise adaptation and increases in strength, speed and power you need to get your training timetable right. If you don’t recover well enough in between sessions and matches you won’t be able to react quickly enough or strongly enough to prevent you reaching that point of no return and an injury occurring. Despite increased awareness this is still one of the most common failure points for individuals and teams. 

Load management should aim to optimise your adaptation to training in the most efficient way possible. And all training should aim to increase your capacity to play the game. Capacity can mean a lot to a rugby player. 

Tissue capacity aims to increase your bodies tissues to deal with load. Strength and tendon training is a good example of improving tissue capacity.

Systems Capacity aims to increase your bodies systems to tolerate high levels of work. This includes cardio-vascular training and anaerobic training

Skill Capacity aims to allow you to practice and fine tune the execution of skills you will need on the field. Skills based training will allow you to do this

Mental Capacity aims to increase your ability and your endurance to make good decisions under fatigue. Game play and scenario specific training allow you to be exposed to decision making scenarios you will be faced with on the field

If your training schedule and programming doesn’t pay enough attention to each of these elements you’re unlikely to optimse performance. Start with the end in mind. Set clear objectives and everything you do should have a focus, a purpose and a desired outcome. If you achieve that you will be well on your way to creating an incredibly effective injury prevention program.

Range of Movement & Activation

A basic prerequisite and foundation of injury prevention for all joints in the body. It needs to be able to move as freely as possible throughout its range of movement. A pure focus on mobility is not good enough for a rugby player. If you have range but can’t control that movement your risk of injury will increase. Activation and muscular control is just as important. You need a balance between mobility and stability. If you can’t adequately control the range of movement that you have then the body will tighten up to protect itself.


The saying “You can’t go wrong getting strong” will always be a big part of any injury prevention program. Contact situations, high speed situations all create big forces. Sometimes many times your own body weight. If you’re not strong enough you wont be able to deal with these large forces on the rugby field.

Power, Speed & Reactivity

Once you’ve established a good foundation of range, activation and strength the ability to express force quickly and react to changing conditions is essential for every rugby player. You’ll read more in the final section about embracing chaos. We have very little control about the loads that we need to deal with on the field. They come from different angles, they shift and change constantly. As a rugby player you need to be able to access your strength and stability when you need it most. Power Speed and Reactivity drills allow you to prepare to do this whilst still retaining a high level of control. Hops, jumps, olympic lifts and sprinting are great examples of training these important qualities. 

Embrace the chaos

Training should not be all numbers and controlled drills. It’s tempting to try and measure everything but not everything you can measure matters and some things you can’t measure matter immensely. As a general rule the things that you can control the most have the poorest transfer on to the rugby field. This is because of one simple fact. Once you are on the rugby field you do not know what the players lining up opposite you are about to do. They have their own agenda, their own style of play, their own set plays. You need to be ready for unpredictability and the only way you can do this is to train in unpredictable environments every now and then. What is aloso true however is that unpredictable activities generally carry an increased injury risk too. As with everything in sports performance. Balance is key. 

Level of Control is inversely proportional to game specificity! High control =  poor transfer to game demands

Level of control is also inversely proportional to injury risk! High control = relatively lower injury risk

You can tightly control activities in the gym – sets, reps and range of movement but their true transfer to the field is limited. 

You can control elements of skill drills – tempo, timing, playing area

Your level of control of games becomes further limited but you get closer to game demands whilst retaining the ability to control the rules of the game. In some instances to make the conditions harder than a game – by loading the teams unfairly for example, 8 vs 5’s.

You need elements of all of them in your training. Like training the force-velocity curve you need to prepare your body for a physical and unpredictable environment, like the one that exists on a rugby field. Rugby is a chaotic sport played within the order that’s created by the laws of the game. Embrace the chaos!

As part of our members area each member gets access to our full series of Rugby Proof injury prevention programs to follow throughout the year. All with structured programs and video demonstrations of each exercise we’ve included in the program

If you have an actual injury it is important that you get it reviewed by a professional before starting any rehab or corrective exercises that you see on our site. You can book online, rugby specific physiotherapy consultations on our website.

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