Common rugby injuries

Written by: Mr Jamie Arbuthnot
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

Rugby is a highly physical and demanding team sport where injuries are almost certain to occur. When a player does get injured, it’s very important that they find appropriate professional help to minimise any long term damage from the injury that could affect their ability to play in the future.


Mr. Jamie Arbuthnot is a highly-experienced consultant orthopaedic surgeon and treats leading rugby players at his specialist practice in Birmingham. He tells us what the most common injuries are and how they might be treated.

Photo of rugby scum


Where do most injuries occur?

In amateur rugby, injuries normally happen at a rate of 47 per 1000 player hours. This works out at around two injuries per game. The average injury rates are reported to be around three times higher than football.

The commonest site of injury is the knee, followed by the thigh, ankle, shoulder, back and neck. Most injuries arise during the tackle with the tackler being more at risk. Usually, the forwards are at a higher risk of injury than the backs.


Sprained ankles, dislocations and fractures are also common injuries that occur during the game.

How are rugby injuries treated?

Most of the knee injuries are ligament strains. This is a type of soft tissue injury in which partial tears occur in the strong structures that stabilise the joints. These can often be treated effectively by physiotherapy after a quick and accurate diagnosis.

It’s not uncommon to experience pain for some weeks, or even months following this kind of injury. Sometimes, the ligament is more comprehensively damaged and this requires bracing or occasionally, surgery. If the ligament isn’t able to heal, it may need to be reconstructed.

At the clinic, I carry out many anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions. Anterior cruciate ligament damage is a very common injury. This ligament is an important structure in the centre of the knee which keeps the knee stable, predominantly when twisting or changing direction. It is often damaged when a player turns suddenly and catches their studs in the grass. It can also be injured during contact situations such as tackles.

Rugby player with rugby ball


When can players return to sport following an injury?

This is the most important issue that affects a player: when and whether they can return to sport.

Following this type of injury, the player should have a speedy and accurate diagnosis. If necessary, prompt surgery might be carried out. A delay in either can result in an increased risk of the player either not returning to play soon, or not returning to play at all.

A physiotherapist will evaluate when it’s the right time to return to training. There are certain rehabilitation goals to achieve before returning to play.

Mr. Jamie Arbuthnot practices in the West Midlands as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and knee sports injury specialist. To book an appointment with him, visit his profile here.

Mr Jamie Arbuthnot

By Mr Jamie Arbuthnot
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Jamie Arbuthnot is a highly-experience consultant orthopaedic surgeon with a specialist interest in lower limb surgery. Based across Spire Parkway and Spire Little Aston hospitals, Mr Arbuthnot provides expert attention and care to patients affected by sports injuries, cartilage injuries and early arthritis. Mr Arbuthnot treats patients from the age of 6 upwards and carries out a high volume of knee replacement and arthroscopic (key-hole) procedures each year.

Following medical training at the University of Liverpool and a junior surgical rotation in Liverpool, Mr Arbuthnot completed a knee surgery fellowship in Cheshire. He was appointed Consultant in Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery at Heart of England NHS Trust in 2008 and maintains a busy and active NHS practice as a knee specialist. He has since completed three further fellowships in knee surgery in the UK and Australia. In addition to clinical practice he has carried out extensive teaching and training commitments.

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