1. ITV Report

Scientists develop programme to tackle rugby injury

Researchers have found that a traditional throw around is not the best way to warm up. Credit: ITV West Country

Scientists at the University of Bath say a new warm-up programme they've developed could reduce rugby injuries by 70%.

Fall in overall injuries
Fall in concussion injuries

The three year study tested 2,500 teenage players aged between 14 and 18 and 40 schools. Now the Rugby Football Union plans to roll out the twenty minute programme across the community game in England.

Traditionally, people warm up before training or a match with a throw around but there are new techniques, a new programme, being perfected at the University of Bath.

Rather than doing our normal stretching exercises that people do during warm up, we actually create both a pre-activation so that means getting our muscles working better before the exercise but also, over a period of a season, you actually get a training effect whereby we improve strength, we improve balance, we improve co-ordination.

– Prof Keith Stokes, University of Bath
The programme includes old-fashioned techniques like, er, balancing on one leg. Credit: ITV West Country
A 'clockwork plank' is probably one of the more punishing exercises Credit: ITV West Country

It focuses on balance, strength and agility in order to prepare players for challenges they face in matches and to mitigate potential injury risks, It is split into four stages:

  • Two-minute running warm-up with change-of-direction activities
  • Four minutes of lower-limb balance training
  • Eight minutes of targeted resistance exercises
  • Six minutes of jumping, side-stepping and landing exercises.

The specific exercises change every four weeks to reflect progress made by the players.

The techniques aren't 'state of the art' or 'groundbreaking' but are as old fashioned as standing on one leg for as long as possible - or performing a 'clockwise plank' help get muscles ready for match time.

The young people experiencing the new warm-up regime really appreciate the benefits of anything which will keep them match fit.

The rugby science team at Bath University has a respected tradition in tackling rugby injury. In 2013, its research to reduce the forces in the scrum led to a change in World Rugby law, changing the scrum engagement technique to "crouch, bind,set".

The team is making a video to show community level coaches around the country how to perform the warm-up, which it's thought could help other sports.

In schoolboy rugby, on average, a team will lose a player to injury every four matches. This programme, the researchers hope will reduce the risks in this sometimes ferocious sport.

Rugby is a game with lots of risks but the new warm-up programme has amazing results. Credit: ITV West Country