For the past 20 years, Mark Plummer has been acquainting himself with all manner of professional rugby injuries. He’s been with the Blues for the past seven years and completed his Masters during that time, researching how best to assist Jumper’s Knee issues.
Today, Plums shares his top tips for keeping the team, and individual athletes, fit and healthy.
Injury prevention all starts in pre-season
When the squad arrives is the most important time to assess the players.
We screen them to assess range of movement, movement deficits, areas of weakness, looking at movement patterns of particular areas, and then we monitor it all throughout the season. Depending on what we find pre-season, players are given S&C and rehab programmes specific to their needs.
Keep your eye on the loosies
In 2015, our loose forwards had 30% of all injuries. They’re probably the most vulnerable group as they’re involved in the high collision areas of the game. Invariably, it’s the loose forwards who are making the most tackles over the 80 minutes of a game. Our least vulnerable would be the inside backs, accounting for 9% of injuries over the season.
Remember that lower limb injuries will often be dominant
It really depends on the player. Last season, 31% of our injuries were lower limb, 18% were upper limb, 14% head and face and 9% spine. The lower limb injuries were our biggest concern, which is pretty consistent with all football codes to be honest.
Focus on what you can control ñ contact and non-contact injuries
We break all injuries in to two types ñ contact and non-contact. The non-contact ones are your muscle sprains and strains, ligamentous injury ñ basically anything that doesn’t pertain to contact on the field.
Last season, 22% of our injuries were non-contact, which means 78% were contact injuries on the field or in training. While we can’t do too much about the contact injuries, we can try to prevent the soft-tissue, non-contact injuries with our programming.
Establish firm protocols for injury prevention ñ don’t let the team skimp on any
We have very set protocols for susceptible areas. For instance, all of our players have set exercises to assist prevention of hamstring, calf, quad and groin injuries.
We have prehab sessions three times a week to assist injury prevention and to prepare the body for the rigors of rugby. The amount of sessions drops down in season which is when more emphasis is put on the technical and tactical rugby specific work.
Be open to new ideas and challenge the team with them
We’ve put more emphasis and education on the importance of prehab. Players usually need to be taught and need to understand what impact the programmes will have on their game.
We’ve introduced Pilates reformers, and I like to think we’re being quite innovative here. The board has been great with backing us with these; I believe we’re the only club that uses these.
It’s an adjunct to treatment, helping to prepare the players’ bodies for the rigors of rugby. It’s a lot harder than the players thought it would be and most have a reformer based programme of some sort based on pre-season screenings.
It’s easy to become despondent from injuries, but keep your eyes fixed on the goal
The way we see it is similar to our players who are continually striving to play the perfect game. We have to have a gold standard that we’re heading towards and ours is to have no soft-tissue injuries.
Start ëem young!
The modern player has to invest in himself or herself ñ it doesn’t have to be expensive to get guidance on a good gym lifting programme. Cardiovascular fitness should be a top priority – rugby is a running game – and strength is also important. A gym programme is becoming more and more important for players from a younger age. The younger you are in training age, the more guidance needed.
And when it comes to injury, make sure you’re getting the correct advice. We need to continue to educate the wider rugby community about injury and concussion. While we have good protocols, resource and management at Super Rugby level, there often isn’t the same support at club and school level.
Couple all your rehab with an excellent gym programme
I’d say that it’s really important for a rugby player to have a well-designed programme, that’s fitted to them. Some need strength or power, while others need to lean down. Some might need better movement and others need improved technique. It has to be really specific.
The requirements are a balance of technical, tactical, physical and mental input.
Use the off-season to fix specific problems
The off-season is a particularly good time to address areas of concern or weakness and to focus on strength regimes.
For others it could be their lifting technique in the lineout, ability to step if they’re a back, poor acceleration or balance, tight structures affecting performance abilities.
Our guys are lucky because they have all the resources available. They’re well screened so they know the deficits. Even though the off-season is small, they go away with very specific goals and specific programmes to follow.