Study shows impact of targeted exercise in injury reduction

  • Targeted exercise programme shown to reduce rugby injuries by over 70%
  • Click here to read the School Injury Prevention Study

The School Injury Prevention Study, led by the RFU and the University of Bath, has been published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. 

Conducted from 2013-16, the survey shows the beneficial impact a newly-devised exercise programme has in reducing overall injuries within youth rugby.

This study is the first of its kind in contact sport and was described during the academic peer review process as ‘the benchmark for studies of this kind.

Involving 40 schools and nearly 2,500 players aged 14–18 years, researchers found that overall injuries fell by 72% when players completed the new exercises at least three times a week. Concussion injuries were reduced by 59%.

The RFU, who commissioned the study, will roll out these findings across the community game and are 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."

Pre-match exercise programme

A new training and pre-match exercise programme was developed as part of the study. It 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. Split into four stages it takes roughly 20 minutes to complete.

This is made up 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).

Professor Keith Stokes, who led the study from the University of Bath, explained: “Over recent years injury risk in youth rugby has received much attention highlighting the importance of establishing new, evidence-based injury reduction strategies.

“Our results are exciting because they show that carrying out a simple set of exercises on a regular basis can substantially reduce injuries in youth rugby.

"We believe these findings will have a significant impact in helping to improve player welfare, making the game safer for young players to enjoy.”

For the past 10 years the Rugby Science team within the Department for Health at the University of Bath have been working closely with the RFU and the RFU Injured Players Foundation to understand more about injury risks in rugby and ways to reduce them.

For information on the RFU’s Rugby Safe programme and their commitment to player welfare, click here.