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IRFU And Liverpool FC Share Best Practice On Hamstring Injuries

IRFU And Liverpool FC Share Best Practice On Hamstring Injuries

The IRFU Medical Department linked up with their counterparts from Premier League leaders Liverpool FC recently to discuss hamstring injury management best practice and the similarities and differences between rugby and soccer.

IRFU Head of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation, Phil Glasgow and injury surveillance and medical research officer, Nicol van Dyk were invited to share Irish Rugby’s approach to hamstring injury management.  Involved from Liverpool FC were Philipp Jacobsen, Medical Rehabilitation & Performance Manager and their wider medical and performance staff.

Phil Glasgow commented, “Hamstring injuries have remained the most common injury in both football and rugby for a number of years. This knowledge sharing exercise with our counterparts at Liverpool FC allowed us learn from each other about the commonalities and differences between rugby and soccer on how hamstring injuries occur and their effective management.” 

Same same but different?

Following the discussions with Liverpool FC, Nicol van Dyk commented,

“The demands of rugby and football are very different. Key factors are the type of contact players are exposed to in the different sports, the intensity of the game, and the frequency of matches. A rugby player may only perform one or two short sprints in a game, but have to accelerate/decelerate numerous times, make a bunch of tackles and ruck and maul extensively.

At the elite level, rugby players would not be expected to play more than once a week. In football, most players on the team will cover a decent amount of distance during a game, have to accelerate/decelerate numerous times and often play two to three times per week.

But for both rugby and football, the majority of hamstring injuries are muscle strains, which can simply be described as tissue failure under a certain load, often in a fatigued state and  can be influenced by a range of  contributing factors.”

A large body of research has contributed to a better understanding of how these injuries occur, how they are managed through rehabilitation, and what factors may be important in the return to sport decision making process.  Importantly, many efforts have gone into prevention strategies to try and mitigate the potential risk of hamstring injury. And many of these principles cut across both rugby and soccer.

What have rugby and football learned from each other?

Nicol van Dyk, continued, “Perhaps the biggest change in our joint understanding is that hamstring injuries may not only occur when you run fast. New clinical evidence suggests that it may also involve unexpected movements, where a player is forced to react in a way that the body isn’t prepared for.

In addition, we know that psychological readiness is key in returning to training or playing, and giving the player enough time and exposure to the right exercises and training to regain their confidence  is a key factor.

Importantly, we want to approach the player in their entirety, making sure we identify potential areas we can improve robustness, creating outcomes where players are protected from future injury and able to perform at their best.”