It's that time of year again; the nights are drawing in and the mornings are spent defrosting cars, which can only mean one thing - it's rugby season.
Club ruby is back on which is fantastic after the last couple of years of not being able to play due to the pandemic.
I have worked closely with local rugby teams, providing physio/sports rehabilitation programs and pitch-side first aid.
One area that I feel is becoming more discussed within club rugby is concussion.
Protocols have been widely used in the past years, including SCAT5 testing. SCAT5 is a standardized tool used by medical professionals and qualified health care professionals to aid in evaluation of athletes/players suspected of having sustained a concussion. SCAT5 can also be used to obtain baseline data among athletes/players for future reference.
Even with protocols in place - concussions are still prevalent.
This naturally prompts the question: What can we do about it?
The best way to deal with a concussion is to prevent one from occurring in the first place.
Here are some ways you can decrease your chances of suffering from a concussion.
When a concussion happens there is a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.
Concussion causes a reduction in blood flow to the brain, and the player can experience dizziness, headaches and other concussion symptoms, as well as neck pain.
Therefore it makes sense that the stronger the muscles around the neck, the more active stability provided to the head and neck during contact.
If the muscles are able to better control the movement of the head on impact (i.e during a rugby tackle) this might limit the severity, even prevent, a concussion happening in the first place.
Here are a few exercises I have given to a club rugby player who sustained concussion in his first game back this rugby season.
I was present for the entire game, and at no point was he knocked unconscious or had altered play during the game from a hit to his head/body. It was after the game he started to experience symptoms of a concussion.
He is currently following a graded return to play.
Stage 1: 48 hrs cognitive and physical rest
Stage 2: Low intensity exercise - keeping heart rate below 70% max heart rate
Stage 3: Running drills
Stage 4: Non contact training
Stage 5: Contact training
Stage 6: Return to play
It is key to note that the athlete/player has no symptoms at rest before you start their graded exposure to exercise. However, recent studies are showing that a prolonged rest period is likely to do them more harm than good - this will be discussed in Concussion Rehab Part 2.
Isometric neck flexion
Isometric neck extension
Isometric neck side flexion left and right
Resisted neck flexion
Resisted neck extension
Resisted neck side flexion left and right
Resisted neck flexion with reverse lunge
Resisted neck extension with forward lunge
Resisted neck side flexion left and right with forward lunge
If you feel that you could benefit from a neck strengthening program to reduce your chances of concussion, please feel free to get in contact today to start your journey to a stronger neck!