‘RugbySmart’ Focus on Injury Prevention in Sport

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ACC New Zealand have expanded the New Zealand Rugby promoted ‘RugbySmart’ player safety focus program. Designed as a prevention tool for all sports, but Rugby-specific to ensure players focus on prevention prior to playing sport.

Focus on injury prevention

The world leading RugbySmart program is set to receive an additional $7 million investment over the next four years. To enhance and expand injury prevention education in the national game of New Zealand. ACC (the Accident Compensation Corporation) are the organisation who administer compulsory accident compensation scheme for personal accident insurance cover.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) developed the RugbySmart program in 2001 across all levels of the game. It is about ensuring all players are physically and technically prepared before they lace up their boots.

ACC’s Sports Injury Prevention Manager Isaac Carlson said expanding the successful partnership with NZR was all about helping keep players on the pitch and off the injury list. “Rugby and rugby players are changing. They’re fitter, faster and stronger than they were a decade ago so it’s important our injury prevention programs keep up with the demands of the modern game.”

Thousands of sports people benefit from ACC support

Some 150,000 people play rugby each winter weekend.  There are approximately 3,000 games played every week over an average of 15 weeks – that’s 45,000 games of rugby every year!

Last year, ACC spent $67 million treating injured rugby players, with much of that coming as a result of contact injuries from tackles, rucks and mauls. This is the largest sports injury cost ahead of cycling and mountain biking injuries.

ACC ‘RugbySmart’ spokesman Sonny Bill Williams is at the forefront of promoting the program through schools, clubs and rugby unions–ironically, the Rugby Sevens player (main picture) was injured himself at the Rio Olympic Games.

Injury prevention and recovery

With Sonny Bill now in recovery mode, to return to the sport in 2017, the additional investment will reinforce the sports message. NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew welcomed the ACC investment.

“The safety of players is of paramount importance. The good news is that our injury program delivered through RugbySmart have significantly reduced the number of catastrophic injuries over the last decade. It’s why other countries have emulated what we do in this area. But we know we can do more to reduce other injuries.

Injury prevention
David Dillon is treated after being injured during the Australia v Samoa Schools Rugby International Credit: Scott Barbour/ALLSPORT

RugbySmart currently targets coaches and referees. However, everyone connected to the game has a responsibility to look after player wellbeing. Through this expansion, we’ll be ensuring players, parents, health providers and others on the side-lines are better equipped to help avoid injuries in the first place and improve the way injuries are managed.”

Expanded RugbySmart program outline

  • Coaches and referees – the current RugbySmart program, including the Blue Card initiative to report head injury
  • Players – providing players with the skills and techniques to keep themselves and their team-mates safe
  • Healthcare providers – tools and aids to allow health providers to manage concussion and other sport related injuries more effectively
  • First aid in rugby – the delivery of a first aid program that equips non-medical people with the skills to better manage injured athletes on the sideline
  • Rugby-specific* warm-up – an exercise program incorporated into team warm-up drills aimed at reducing preventable injuries
  • Respect and responsibility – tailored program with an emphasis on respectful relationships. That includes consent, sexual assault and violence prevention (sexual and domestic).

Be ready for rugby. Be Rugby Smart

Thomas Burgess stretches during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at Redfern Oval (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The rugby-specific* ‘Fit to Play’ warm up is an exercise program tailored to the demands placed on men, women, boys and girls and builds in good training habits. Pre-match stretching and warming down post match are rugby-basics, but through the support and encouragement of sports administrators and all stakeholders, the risk to sports people can be reduced.

The injury rate in rugby has risen from 35,171 per 100,000 players in 2011 to 40,940 in 2015.

“This reflects not only more injuries, but also greater awareness which is a good thing. As more people are seeking medical attention,” Murphy said. “With ACC, we now want to build on that and ensure together we’re doing all we can to keep players safe.”

“Main photo credit”