Injury Risk Reduction in the warm-up
Recently research has been produced highlighting the benefit of including a warm-up with a focus on exercises that could reduce the risk of injury. This could be very useful for the training of youth rugby players, as coaches could potentially prepare the body for the upcoming immediate training session and reduce the risk of injury in the long run with this warm-up. The warm-up with a focus on injury risk reduction, focused on exercises from 4 main categories. The first category is balance training and this section of the warm-up could include static balancing drills like standing on one leg and more dynamic balance exercises such as hopping. This balance training will allow the player to learn to control their own body and maintain balance in a variety of positions which could be useful to both rugby performance and injury risk reduction. The second category is resistance training and this will look at exercises that look to develop the bodies ability to create and control forces from external resistance. Areas such as the thigh musculature, the trunk, the upper limb musculature and the neck musculature should be targeted with resistance exercises in this section of the warm-up. Exercises such as lunges, resisted shoulder raises and press-ups could be included to both prepare the body for training and to reduce the risk of injury. The third category was jumping and landing based exercises where the player will learn to control the forces when landing and then produce the forces when jumping. This will be beneficial to teaching to players to control and absorb many of the forces that they will experience during the game of rugby. Finally the fourth category looked at cutting and agility based drills with feedback from the coach on body position and execution of the drill. This replicates a very useful skill in rugby and so is preparing the player for the demands of rugby while allowing them to practice controlling and developing the forces associated with such movements.
The research study looking at this type of injury risk reduction warm-up using exercises from these 4 categories showed some positive results. Studies found that players who undertook the injury risk reduction warm-up had a lower incidence of injury over the course of a season compared to players who undertook a more traditional warm-up comprising of, raising the body temperature and then dynamic stretching and mobility work. These are promising results but the studies did have some issues. One of the most pressing ones was that there was a lack of feedback and coaching during the more traditional warm-up compared to the injury risk reduction warm-up. This could mean that it was a lack of coaching the athletes that caused the difference in injury incidence results rather than the exercises and structure of each of the warm-up protocols. This research provides some interesting and valuable data. Perhaps the coach could include exercises from the 4 mentioned categories into a more traditional warm-up design and still get the injury risk reduction benefit. It is a promising area of research as preparation for physical performance and injury risk reduction are the two main areas in conditioning players for rugby.