Shoulder injuries : Rugby Injuries

A shoulder tackle is one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of a rugby player, and shoulder tackles are a constant feature of rugby games. As a result, it should come as no surprise that shoulder injuries are unfortunately common in rugby.

What causes shoulder injuries?

Shoulder injuries, often known colloquially as the ‘rugby shoulder’, are a common occurrence in rugby, and are often cited as the second most common rugby injury of all. The musculature of players helps to reduce the fragility of the shoulder, but the joint remains relatively unstable. This instability, combined with the high-power impacts of rugby tackles and awkward positioning of the upper arm or shoulder, may contribute to a minor or even a serious shoulder injury.

What different types of shoulder injuries are there?

The joint between the bones in the shoulder is filled by a fluid, jelly-like sack which prevents the bones from grinding together. One common kind of shoulder injury is inflammation of this fluid, known as bursitis. Symptoms may include pain and aching, but they should pass quickly as the injury is relatively minor. When players overuse the shoulder, tendinitis is often a result. The tendon acts as a binding muscle between the two bones which make up your shoulder, and can become inflamed and irritated. Another very painful shoulder injury is shoulder dislocation, where the arm bone is displaced from its proper position in the shoulder blade. This kind of injury may be a result of a powerful blow to the shoulder, perhaps from a very strong rugby tackle or a fall. These are the main kinds of injuries, but the complexity of the shoulder area means that there are numerous others too, with similar symptoms.

Prevention of shoulder injuries

One good way to prevent yourself from contracting a shoulder injury is to increase both your upper body strength as well as your flexibility. If your joints are flexible, you are less likely to damage any part of your shoulder. Since many shoulder injuries such as bursitis and tendonitis are caused by using the shoulder too much, ensure you rest your shoulder enough between matches and training and this should reduce the risk of chronic injury. A good cardiovascular exercise routine, such as with jogging, may also help to improve your fitness and your ability to recover in between rugby-related exercise.

Treatment of shoulder injuries

If you have already contracted a shoulder injury, it is best to rest the joint and discontinue playing rugby for a few days, or as long is reasonable when considering the extent of the injury. If your shoulder has become dislocated, seek medical attention and do not try to reset the joint yourself under any circumstances. For chronic shoulder injury or more serious injury, surgery or physiotherapy may be options for you. In any case, if the symptoms of the injury recur or are particularly serious, seek medical attention and have a full examination of the shoulder performed. To recover from a shoulder injury, it may be helpful to gently exercise the joint with rotations and even light weights before returning to playing rugby.

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