Why women’s rugby needs its own injury prevention strategy

Why women’s rugby needs its own injury prevention strategy
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With the Women’s Six Nation’s Championship underway, there is mounting public concern regarding the risk of injuries to players.

In recent years there has been a significant rise in the number of women playing rugby. Women now make up one-quarter of the global rugby playing population. But despite the fact that there are similar injuries in both men and women’s rugby, female players need their own injury prevention strategy.

There is evidence to suggest that gender differences may influence injuries in team sports in general.

Research shows that lower neck strength may predispose female rugby players to concussion. Research has shown that females have greater head acceleration in response to an applied force than males, which could predispose them to concussion. This may be because females have significantly less isometric neck strength and neck girth.

Anatomical differences in the female pelvis, knee and lower leg can alter lower limb alignment. The resulting knee valgus, or “knock knee,” may increase injury risk to the knee particularly the medial collateral ligament, meniscus and possibly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Gender differences in neuromuscular function (the communication between the brain and muscles) have also been reported to contribute to ACL injury and possibly concussion.

While there are such differences, the common types of injuries in male and female rugby are similar. Concussion tops the list as the most common specific injury diagnosis with lower leg injuries to the ankle, knee and hamstring following behind.

Higher risk?

Within rugby union, an injury is defined as any physical complaint sustained by a player during the game that results in the player being unable to take part in future rugby activities.

At the elite level, women’s rugby has an overall injury risk that is nearly 50% lower than men’s rugby. This equates to about three injuries in every male professional match, and less than two injuries in every women’s rugby match.

In amateur rugby, the landscape is different. Both male and female players face a comparable risk of injury, albeit a lower overall risk than at the professional level.

Emerging evidence also suggests that the overall burden of injury may be higher in females than males at this level. Injury burden is a composite measure of injury incidence, or rate, and the days missed that is use

…. to be continued
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