Head injuries : Rugby Injuries

Rugby is a contact sport, thus minor injuries are fairly common. Head injuries are amongst the more major kinds of injuries, and there is a variety of different head injuries, the treatment and seriousness of which differ dramatically. Knowing the difference between the kinds of head injuries and the ability to assess the seriousness of a head injury could help to limit the damage caused to you or one of your team mates.

What causes a head injury in Rugby?

There are many different causes of head injury, but the most common causes of head injury in rugby are scrumming, risky tackling and precarious falls. Since rugby requires the exertion of great physical force, most of the body’s muscles are engaged in situations such as scrumming, and the position of the head in scrums often leaves it highly vulnerable to injury.

Even a small knock to the head can be enough to cause a head injury of great concern. In fact, head injuries are less about the force applied to the head and more about the location of the blow. Medical studies have shown that damage to the front of the head, around the forehead, is less likely to cause serious damage than damage or blows to other areas, which includes the jaw.

Prevention of head injuries

As with anything, prevention of a head injury is better than any treatment. The brain is extremely delicate, and you should always be concerned, within reason, about protecting your head whilst playing rugby. Although many argue that rugby head gear can prevent head injury, this is often not the case. The best prevention of head injuries lies in your technique and playing style.

Ensure your team are adequately matched, in terms of skill levels, against the opposing teams, and this could prevent against bad tackles causing head injury. Also, ensure that when you’re on the ground, you protect your head with both your forearms as much as you can. Other players should be focussing on getting the ball rather than injuring you, but protecting your head in this way will reduce the number of injuries. Asides from this, simply being aware of your head’s fragility and actively keeping it out of harms way when possible is good practice.

Types of head injury in rugby

The main kinds of head injury are called Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), and the most minor kind of injury is called concussion. Concussion may be a direct result of a knock to the head or it can be a result of speeding up or slowing down too quickly, like in a car crash. Those suffering from concussion are often confused and dazed, and are occasionally sick or unconscious for a small period of time. Other more serious kinds of head injuries include fractures to the skull and compression injuries, otherwise known as ‘cracking your head open’. The fracture can put serious pressure on the brain, also known as compression, which in turn may lead to permanent brain damage. Symptoms of compression injuries are similar to concussion injuries, but last longer. If you suffer from persistent blurred vision for instance, seek immediately medical attention.

Treatment for head injuries

As mentioned earlier, the kind of treatment necessary will depend upon what kind of head injury is sustained. With a minor concussion an ice pack and some rest should clear symptoms within minutes. If not, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible. Any persistent symptoms are often related to compression head injuries rather than concussions, and are more serious. Limit the damage by getting treated medically.

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