What are the most common injuries in Rugby Union?

Ruby union is a popular sport that is played internationally as well as here in Australia.

Athletes from as young as 8 years to 40 years of age engage in this sport.

The sport requires good strength, speed, power, agility and ball-handling skills.

Throughout the game, players are expected to tackle, run, pass, kick, pack scrums and perform line-outs. Not all of these movements can cause injuries but 1 in 4 players are expected to have some sort of injury during the season that can vary from mild to severe.

The 5 most common injuries in rugby include:

  1. Concussion

A concussion is a brain injury that occurs from rapid acceleration and deceleration of the brain within the skull. This essentially causes the head to move forward and backward, which can cause a coupe and countercoup injury (brain bruising). This causes disruption in the brain cells. A concussion is categorised typically as mild, moderate or severe.

Symptoms of concussion include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea

It is important to seek medical attention if a concussion is suspected as these injuries can cause complications.

  1. Sprains and strains

Muscle strains occur when the muscle is overloaded or overstretched suddenly. This causes microtears in the muscle fibres and is accompanied by pain and associated muscle weakness in the damaged muscles. Eventually, microtears become larger and can result in swelling, bruising, loss of function and strength.

Sprains occur when a ligament is overstretched and either becomes lax (like a loose rubber band), or tears but remains intact.

The most common muscle to strain is the calf and the most common area to strain is the ankle.

  1. Shoulder dislocation

Shoulders are unfortunately one of the most unstable joints in the body and can dislocate during a tackle or when landing on the shoulder. This will always need to be relocated back into position by a medical professional. Scans will also be required to ensure no neurovascular structures have been damaged during the relocation.

  1. Fractures

The clavicle (collarbone) is the most commonly fractured bone in rugby union. A broken clavicle can occur when a player goes to tackle the opposition with their body in the wrong position. The opposition player’s knee often collides with the tackler’s clavicle, which creates the fracture.

If you look closely, many rugby union players have a “bump” on their collar bone. This is usually due to calcifications around an old fracture site as not all fractures require surgery.

  1. Contusion (bruise/“corky”)

It is very common to get bruises from playing rugby. Usually these heal quickly and without cause for concern, but more severe bruising can impair muscle function and cause significant pain.

Deep bruising of the quadriceps, often referred to as a “corky” is a fairly common injury in rugby. This results from an intense impact to the quad which causes the muscle to smash into the thigh bone. This causes bleeding within the muscle which shows up as severe bruising with pain and swelling. Physiotherapists can help speed up the recovery by draining the muscle and re-aligning the muscle fibres to help maintain mobility and reduce pain.

  1. Cuts

It is also very common to get deep cuts that may require stitches. Commonly, stray elbows, head clashes opening up a cut or copping a boot to the body create deep gashes. These cuts commonly require stitches or surgical glue to close these open wounds.

What can we do?

Above are the most common injuries, however several others are possible.

Can these injuries be prevented? Unfortunately, not all of them, and not always.

Some players may go months or years without injuries, while others seem to get one every game. There will always be an inherent risk of injury with whichever sport you partake in. It comes part and parcel with playing sports. Injuries are expected, but there are ways to reduce the risk of some injuries. Risk for things like muscle strains, ligament tears and dislocations can be reduced by having good joint mobility plus stability, however, sometimes injuries still occur due to the nature of contact sport.

At Trilogy Physiotherapy our physiotherapists have worked with rugby teams and have treated rugby union players for many years. They understand the requirements of the sport and know how to help prevent certain injuries and also how to help players return to sport after injury.

If you are a rugby union player and would like to discuss your risk factors for injury or seek treatment for any current injuries please BOOK NOW!

Read more….

To learn more about low back pain / pelvis pain with deadlifts, read our blog HERE
To learn more about squat techniques, read our blog HERE
To learn more about why it’s important to do preventative rehab, read our blog HERE


Brooks, J. H., Fuller, C. W., Kemp, S. P., & Reddin, D. B. (2005). Epidemiology of injuries in English professional rugby union: part 1 match injuries. British journal of sports medicine, 39(10), 757–766. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2005.018135

Brooks, J. H., & Kemp, S. P. (2008). Recent trends in rugby union injuries. Clinics in sports medicine, 27(1), 51-73.

Make an Appointment

Our team are ready and waiting to help you take the next step and get your quality of life back!

Take the first step with Trilogy Physiotherapy in Sinnamon Park, Brisbane, your 'physio near me'.

Trilogy Physiotherapy leverages evidence based therapy combined with innovative problem solving techniques - helping you get back to enjoying life, sooner!

Looking for Brisbane's best physiotherapists, massage therapists and dietitians near you? Look no further, click the button below to book now!