World Rugby injury prevention programme

World Rugby launches new exercise programme developed to reduce rugby injuries

We’re all enjoying the Rugby World Cup, but it’s also good to see that the powers-that-be haven’t given themselves a month off and are addressing some major issues in the sport. And the biggest one of all is injury prevention.

We’ve already discussed the new trials introduced by World Rugby last month, and now – in conjunction with England Rugby and the University of Bath – they’ve launched a new injury prevention programme called Activate, which is designed to put the code at the forefront of injury prevention in contact sports – and according to research already conducted by the University, the programme can reduce the risk of soft-tissue injuries by 26 to 40% and concussion risk for youth players and by 29 to 60% for adults.

Activate, in a nutshell

The Activate programme consists of simple, user-friendly exercises designed to improve general movement control, muscle activation, strength and power. Interestingly, there are several exercises geared towards developing stability and mobility of the head and neck region, with a view to reducing the potential ‘whiplash’ effects that can occur with concussion.

The objective is to encourage coaches and players to regularly integrate Activate exercises into their training sessions and pre-match routines. There are four different versions of the exercise programme: an adult version, and three age-graded versions. Each programme consists of a number of progressive phases, which should be undertaken for a set time before moving onto the next.

The programme has already been (for want of a better word) activated at Skerries Rugby Club in Ireland – a team which just happens to have Mark Harrington, World Rugby’s Head of Technical Services, as its Director of Rugby. “We introduced the youth and adult versions of the Activate programme across several teams at the club during the 2017/18 season. Led by our coaches, the programme has grown to become an accepted part of training sessions and pre-match warm-ups for the players,” said Harrington.

“We have also taken the opportunity to adapt some parts of the programme to better suit our needs and keep things fresh, such as breaking the programme up into parts to be completed during training sessions instead of as a warm-up. Although based on only a few teams, we have noticed that fewer players are turning up to training with knocks while player availability for matches has been better than in recent years. Because of this, we have decided to continue using the Activate programme.”

Minimal set-up, maximum injury prevention benefit

The Activate programme has been designed to take up minimal space – essentially, a third of a rugby pitch, split into four separate zones – and use nothing but cones to mark out zones, and it runs for 15 to 20 minutes for youth programmes and 20 to 25 minutes for the adult version. Many of the exercises are performed individually or in pairs, and it’s up to the coach to decide if balls should be used.

While one coach can manage the Activate session, it is advised that assistants are also deployed to keep the exercises moving, so the coach can focus on the players’ technique. It’s recommended that players should be put through the Activate programme three times a week for optimal results, and it can also be deployed as part of a player’s rehabilitation after injury. And if you haven’t seen it already, it’s worth downloading the manual, which is available on the World Rugby website.

To arrange an appointment with knee injury specialist Mr Jonathan Webb, call 08450 60 44 99.