England’s defence of their Six Nations title has got off to a shaky start against France and Wales; as head coach Eddie Jones described it, England have now used up all of their “get-out-of-jail-free cards”. The loss of Chris Robshaw due to a significant shoulder injury requiring surgery meant the England team entered the tournament with over half of the starting pack missing from action.
However, it’s more of a blow for Robshaw who has fought hard to make it into the starting team. He suffered the injury on New Year’s Day in the Aviva Premiership Harlequins’ 24-17 match.
This will be the first Six Nations he has missed for five years. Other players in the team have also been plagued with injury. Joe Marler is recovering from a calf injury, while James Haskell recently returned after a six-month absence caused by a toe injury, only to get knocked out within 35 seconds of being back.
Rugby is renowned for its high-injury risk and shoulder issues account for 20% of all injuries in the sport.
Understanding rugby-related shoulder injuries
Out of all sports, ruby is known to have the highest risk of injury both per player and per hour. Shoulder injuries make up 20% of all rugby-related injuries coming second to knee injuries.
Approximately 35% of rugby shoulder injuries are recurrent, meaning if a player does injure their shoulder they are more than likely to suffer another. These injuries most commonly occur during the tackle manoeuvre.
The risk of developing shoulder injuries in rugby can never be fully eliminated due to the high-contact and rough nature of the sport. However, players can reduce the risk by ensuring the surrounding musculature is well-built up.
The most common rugby-related shoulder injuries include:
- Labral tears
- Rotator cuff tears
- AC joint sprain
Out of the above, labral tears are significantly more common than any other type of shoulder injury in the sport. Surprisingly, the number of full shoulder dislocations are rare in rugby. This is thought to be because of the additional support provided by the built-up muscles around the joint.
Treatment and prevention of rugby shoulder injuries
The majority of rugby shoulder injuries tend to occur at the beginning of each rugby season. This suggests that adequate pre-season training could help to reduce the risk. A proper training program should work on building up the shoulder gradually, intensifying in duration and strength as the season draws nearer.
It’s also important for players to ensure they are using proper technique, particularly when it comes to tackles and defensive skills. However, even with adequate preparation, it may not be possible to prevent injury completely.
Most players who develop what is commonly referred to as rugby shoulder, end up requiring surgery. They are also unable to return to their performance prior to the injury. This shows just how significant a shoulder injury can be to a player’s career.
The key is to seek treatment as soon as a shoulder injury is identified. Pain is typically the main symptom to watch out for. Early detection and treatment can make all of the difference to a player’s career.