The latest of our series looking at the people involved behind the scenes at Leinster Rugby takes us to the work of Garreth Farrell. He belongs to that most overworked fraternity in rugby today: the head physiotherapist.
In the video below, he talks through a typical day at Leinster and what motivates him, down to the sheer amount of kit he has to bring to every match.
Are rugby players more susceptible to injuries than those of other sports?
As Farrell points out, the ever-increasing size and fitness of the players, along with the increasingly demanding fixture list, means the propensity for injuries is higher than ever before.
It will come as unsurprising that rugby features more injuries per match than either of the other two most popular field sports in Ireland: Gaelic football and soccer. This 2012 study printed in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that the match play injury risk in rugby is 74%, a percentage which is higher than both Gaelic football and soccer.
Interestingly, the same study found that there was a higher rate of injury at training in Gaelic football than in rugby. Most injuries in rugby occur during games, rather than in training, which shows just how much of a factor the attritional and physical nature of matches is. 57% of these injuries occur in the second half of games.
What are the most common types of injury in rugby?
The most common type of injury according to the report are concussions. The English RFU commissioned a report into the nature of injuries for the 2013/14 season, looking at the Aviva Premiership. Per that report, concussions have an incidence rate of 10.5 /1000 rugby match hours. This constituted 12.5% of all match injuries, with the increase partly down to the increased awareness of concussion on the part of players, referees, coaches and medical teams leading to a rise in the number of reported concussions.
The report found that the second-most commonly reported injury are "thigh hematomas", which in layman terms are severe bruises, while it also echoed Farrell's words on the frequency of ankle injuries, with ankle sprains representing almost 1 in 7 rugby injuries. Many of these occur, as Farrell stated, in the dual tackle, when ankles are rolled over.
While the high impact injuries are the most common, this is not to say rugby players are not susceptible to soft tissue injuries, as Farrell points out in the above video. The RFU report found 2.5 hamstring injuries occurred per 1,000 rugby match hours. This is a drop, however, of 50%, to their lowest level since 2002.
Interestingly, the same report stated that the frequency of the recurrence of these hamstring injuries has dropped in recent years, with the report praising the effective rehabilitation of players by medical teams.
Which positions are the most susceptible to injury?
Last year, Rugby World reported a three-year investigation into injuries in the French Top 14, commissioned by the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) and FFR (Fédération Française de Rugby).
The front row account for 26% of the total injuries with the hooker the worst affected. The hooker in particular appears to be the position most in the wars. The position accounts for more blood, face, neck and knee injuries than any other, and was second most common position for concussions and shoulder injuries.
Outside of the front row, the next most vulnerable players are the half-backs: out-halves suffered more concussions and muscular injuries than any other position, while only front-row players incurred more shoulder and knee injuries than the scrum-half.