How playing rugby impacts on the foot
Rugby is a multi-directional, multi-speed impact sport played on various types and quality of surfaces and in every kind of weather.
Research has demonstrated that the lower limb is the most frequently injured part of the body, with excessive loads being focused specifically about the joints of the ankle and foot.
Rugby injuries are more traumatic when compared with other sports and specifically relate to the player’s position.
Front row players in particular are subject to greater absorption and transmission of forces through the foot in scrummaging and experience a high degree of knee and cartilage injury, calf muscle and Achilles tendon problems, lateral ankle ligament damage, inflammation or rupture of the tissue in the arch of the foot (plantar fascia) and stress fractures of sesamoids (small bones under the big toe joint) and the metatarsals.
The incidence of injury in centre and back row players is greatly increased by tackling and usually occurs as a result of direct force. Interestingly, during training sessions running is the predominant cause of injury for both forwards and backs.
Potential problems and when best to seek the help of a Podiatrist
Common injury as a result of direct trauma includes damage to the nails, ligamentous damage in particular of the big toe joint (known as “Turf Toe”) and skin lesions such as blisters. Repetitive injury may lead to heel and arch pain, shin splints and knee problems such as swelling / locking of the joint.
Due to biomechanical mechanisms involved, such types of injury may be more difficult to manage and do not always respond to standard methods of sports medicine such as rest, cold and heat treatments, physiotherapy, strengthening, proprioception retraining and rehabilitation.
The key role of the podiatrist is to identify any underlying biomechanics issues and address them by means of orthotic therapy whilst incorporating methods of rehabilitative management such as improving lower leg muscle function as part of the treatment regime.