Rugby & NRL injuries you need to watch out for! The traumatic injuries

Last week we talked about our top 5 overuse injuries from rugby and NRL that we see and treat here in our clinic. They included achilles injuries, knee injuries, shin splints, heel pain and stress fractures. Today we’re going to talk about the traumatic injuries that we often see and treat, that is, the ones you get from tackles, trips, falls, and smashing the ball into the ground as you fly over the line for a touchdown and hear that cheering in the background.

1. Knee ligament strains and tears

There are four major stabilising ligaments of the knee. Two are inside the knee joint, called your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and the other two are on either side of the knee, called the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (PCL). All four ligaments attach to both the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone). Direct blows to the knee (from tackles or falling with the knee bent, for example) can push the femur in a certain direction on top of the tibia, and depending on this direction, can strain or tear one or more of the ligaments. Because these ligaments work to stabilise the knee, this injury can not only be extremely painful but can also leave you feeling weak and unstable at the knee and see you sitting out the rest of the season. In fact, it’s an ACL injury that has seen Bronco’s player Andre Savelio out for the season.

2. Muscle tears

With all the collisions during tackles, scrums and bursting off into a run, muscles as well as other ligaments, tendons and connective tissues can tear when they’re forcefully stretched and pushed past a point that they can safely handle. There are different grades of tears ranging from a minor tear through muscle all the way to a complete rupture. Because a partial tear will worsen if you keep playing and “pushing through the pain” it’s important that when you feel pain (especially when it’s accompanied by a snapping noise) to stop, rest and seek help for your injury.

3. Ankle sprains

Ankle sprains appear to be one of those frustrating and painful injuries that occur unexpectedly when you’re part way through running, passing, catching or trying to get around another player. In reality, ankle sprains occur when the ankle is forced outwards (or in less common circumstances, inwards) from either an external force (such as being tackled from the side), from a rapid sideways motion (such as quickly changing direction), or from poor ankle stability leading to it ‘giving out’ when you move towards one side. The ‘sprain’ refers to the supporting ankle ligaments that surround the ankle and work to keep it strong and stable. When these ligaments are stretched and strained from rolling the ankle, they get damaged and become swollen and painful. Your ankle will also feel less stable until they heal and return to full capacity and strength. It’s important to note that when repeated ankle sprains aren’t properly cared for and treated, a long-term instability can develop. This is called chronic ankle instability.

4. Forefoot injuries – plantar plate tears & turf toe

The plantar plate is a ligament band that runs across the ball of your foot and connecting the joints. It helps to keep them in line, protected, and stop them from hyperextending. Damage to the plantar plate can occur from the position the forefoot can be suddenly thrust into during a game, as well as from overloading the forefoot. This means that the affected toe can come out of line with the others and many notice a ‘V’ sign, where a toe separates from the toe beside to leave a ‘V’ shape between them. This also places the player at greater risk of developing turf toe. When a toe is forced upwards, like when it’s planted or caught on the ground while the body is moving forwards to dive with the ball, the joint at the bottom of the foot can become sprained. Whether it’s a turf toe injury or the plantar plate, it’s important to strap the toes back down and together so they can heal in the correct position and not lead to any long-term weakening of the affected joints.

5. Bone fractures and dislocations

A bone fracture (also known as a bone break) describes one or more breaks or cracks in the bone. A dislocation is when the two bones that form a joint come out of place at the joint where they’re meant to be connected. Both can have a significant negative impact on the surrounding tissues and vessels, interrupting blood flow or spraining surrounding tissues. Traumatic fractures and dislocations occur from high-impact forces such as tackles and hitting the ground hard at speed. Both can be very painful and require effective management to heal and rehab back to full capacity so that the area doesn’t become permanently weakened.

While the risk of serious injury can vary with the level you’re playing at, all players should take care to warm up and cool down well to reduce the likelihood of injury where possible. Other ways you can reduce the risk of injury include:

  • Wearing good, supportive footwear that’s right for your foot type and activity
  • Being mindful of previous injury which makes you more vulnerable to re-injuring the same area again. Using taping or bracing to provide additional support, as well as actively working to strengthen the area, can reduce your risk of re-injury
  • Check your technique – both your gait and running styles as well as specific movements in rugby. Work to improve your technique and get your body moving efficiently
  • Let yourself recover completely from injury and don’t start playing again until you have. Not allowing bones, joints, muscles or tissues to fully recover before stressing them again can lead to a permanent weakening of the area and place you at a greater risk of future re-injury

When injury does occur, our team is only a phone call away to start getting you back on your feet and feeling great again! Our team of podiatrists and physiotherapists in Toowoomba and Warwick specialise in sports medicine and are big footy fans, so you’re in the right place. You can give us a call on 07 4638 3022 or book online.

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