Elite rugby event aims to keep premier league players at the top of their game

photo: Getty images

Keeping elite rugby players injury free and at the top of their game can be a tough job. 

A special conference organised by the University of Leicester’s Physical Activity and Rehabilitation Group, has sought to address the types of injuries professional sportspeople experience throughout their career and the care needed to keep them on the pitch. 

Athletic trainers from across the rugby premiership gathered in the George Davies Centre last week (13 March) where they heard about the latest research, including calf muscle and Achilles tendon injuries, alongside neck strength and concussion risk. 

Dr Seth O’Neill, Associate Professor and Physiotherapy lead in the University’s School of Healthcare, who helped organise the conference, said: “The event was created in order to bring medical and strength and conditioning staff together across premiership and championship levels in order to share and learn together, expand their network and develop a focussed, cohesive group that can progress forwards with the problems faced by backroom staff in elite rugby. 

“As well as some short lectures from recognised experts and club personnel who have completed research, there were practical workshops around neck and calf strength testing, using protocols developed by our leading international experts and PhD students.

“It was really useful and insightful for attendees and will lead to greater standardisation of test parameters used in clubs, which will allow us to pool large datasets and develop much stronger understanding around these key areas.” 

Among those speaking was Matt Lee, Head of Medicine at Northampton Saints Rugby Club and a PhD student at the University. 

Matt spoke about his research identifying that calf muscle weakness predates the onset of calf or Achilles tendon pain in elite rugby. His study, which he presented to the International Olympic Committee (ICO) injury conference in Monaco earlier this month, will have important implications for the management and prevention of both conditions.

It is the first study to examine this worldwide and will have important implications for the management and prevention of both conditions. 

Lesley McBride, researcher into cervical spine strength for sport, lecturer and former squad physio for England Under 20s rugby squad, spoke about neck strength testing, presenting her research findings at the event.

She said: “Concussion is the biggest problem facing elite rugby at present due to the potential impact on player welfare, large scale mass action lawsuits against the RFU and law changes that are influencing the way the game is played, so this valuable research contribution is a vital piece of the jigsaw when looking for injury management strategies."