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Home | Blog | Tackling the Scrum: Hip Injuries in Rugby

Tackling the Scrum: Hip Injuries in Rugby

Tackling the Scrum: Hip Injuries in Rugby

Rugby is a physically demanding sport that combines elements of power, speed, and agility. As players engage in tackles, scrums, and sprints across the field, the risk of injury is inherent. One area of the body particularly susceptible to injury in rugby is the hip. In this blog, we will explore four common hip injuries related to playing rugby, discussing their symptoms and treatment options to help both players and coaches better understand the risks and how to mitigate them.

1. Hip Labral Tear

The hip labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the hip joint socket, providing stability and cushioning to the joint. In rugby, players often engage in sudden, forceful movements and tackles that can lead to hip labral tears. These tears can be painful and may require surgical intervention in severe cases.

The most common causes of a labral tear in the hip include:

1. Trauma or Injury:

A sudden, forceful injury or trauma to the hip joint, such as a fall, a direct blow to the hip, or a car accident, can cause a labral tear.

2. Repetitive Movements:

Repetitive movements or activities in rugby put stress on the hip joint which can lead to labral tears over time. 

3. Overuse or Poor Mechanics:

Engaging in sports like rugby with improper biomechanics of the hip joint can increase the risk of labral tears. This is often seen in players who have faulty movement patterns or training routines that place excessive stress on the hip joint.

Symptoms:

  • Deep, aching pain in the hip or groin area
  • Clicking or popping sensations in the hip joint
  • Limited range of motion in the hip
  • Hip joint stiffness
  • Feeling of instability or “catching” in the hip

Treatment Options

Physiotherapy: 

Physical therapists can design specific exercises to strengthen the hip muscles and improve joint stability.

Anti-inflammatory medication: 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help manage pain and reduce inflammation.

Injection therapy: 

In some cases, corticosteroid injections into the hip joint can provide temporary pain relief.

Surgery: 

Severe hip labral tears may require arthroscopic surgery to repair or remove damaged tissue.

2. Hip Fractures

Hip fractures are a rare but serious injury that can occur in rugby, often associated with high-impact tackles and collisions on the field. These fractures involve a break in the upper part of the femur (thighbone), which can significantly impact a player’s mobility and overall well-being.

Hip fractures in rugby typically result from direct trauma or a powerful impact to the hip region. These impacts can occur during tackles, scrums, or falls while running at high speeds. The force applied to the hip joint can be substantial, leading to fractures in the femoral neck (the narrow part of the femur just below the hip joint) or the intertrochanteric region (the region between the hip joint and the top of the femur).

Cause:

The main cause of hip fractures is a direct impact from a tackle or heavy fall.

Symptoms:

  • Severe pain in the hip and groin area
  • Swelling and bruising around the hip
  • Inability to bear weight on the affected leg
  • Leg appearing shorter or rotated outward
  • Restricted hip movement

Treatment Options:

Hip fractures will almost always require surgical intervention. The specific procedure may vary depending on the type and location of the fracture, but common approaches include:

Surgery:

  • Hip Pinning: 

In cases of femoral neck fractures, orthopaedic surgeons may use screws or pins to stabilise the broken bone segments and facilitate healing.

  • Hip Replacement:

In more severe fractures or when the blood supply to the fractured area is compromised, a partial or total hip replacement may be necessary. This involves replacing the damaged hip joint with a prosthetic one.

Rehabilitation:

Following surgery, players will undergo extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation to regain strength, mobility, and function in the affected hip. Rehabilitation is crucial for preventing complications such as muscle atrophy and joint stiffness.

Rest and Recovery:

Players should refrain from participating in rugby activities until they receive medical clearance, which often takes several months. Returning to play too soon can increase the risk of reinjury or complications.

Hip fractures in rugby are relatively rare but can have severe consequences for players. Due to the potential long-term effects on mobility and overall health, prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential.

3. Hamstring Tears:

Hamstring tears are a prevalent injury in rugby, affecting both amateur and professional players. The hamstrings are a group of three muscles located at the back of the thigh (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus), responsible for extending the hip and flexing the knee. These muscles are crucial for sprinting, changing direction, and acceleration, making them particularly susceptible to injury in a high-intensity sport like rugby.

Hamstring tears often occur due to a combination of factors, including rapid acceleration, deceleration, and sudden changes in direction during the game. 

Common causes include:

1. Overstretching: 

When the hamstrings are forced to lengthen beyond their capacity, such as during a quick sprint or a sudden stop, they can tear.

2. Muscle Imbalance: 

Weakness or imbalances in the hamstring muscles can increase the risk of injury, as the muscles may not adequately absorb and dissipate the force.

3. Fatigue:

As the game progresses, fatigue can compromise muscle coordination and increase the likelihood of a hamstring tear.

Symptoms:

The signs of a hamstring tear can vary in severity but often include:

  • Sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh
  • Swelling and tenderness at the site of the injury
  • Bruising, which may develop in the days following the injury
  • Difficulty in walking or straightening the leg
  • Decreased strength and flexibility in the hamstring muscles

Treatment:

Treatment for hamstring tears in rugby players typically involves a combination of rest and rehabilitation:

Rest:

Initially, players with hamstring tears should refrain from any activities that exacerbate the injury. Rest is crucial for allowing the torn muscle fibres to heal.

Ice and Compression:

Applying ice and compression can help reduce pain and swelling in the affected area during the initial stages of injury.

Physiotherapy:

A structured rehabilitation program under the guidance of a physical therapist is essential for regaining strength, flexibility, and mobility in the hamstring muscles. Exercises may include stretching, strengthening, and proprioception drills.

Gradual Return to Play:

Players should not rush their return to rugby activities. It’s essential to follow a progressive return-to-play plan to reduce the risk of re-injury.

Surgery:

In some cases, the hamstring can be completely torn. This usually occurs high up where it attaches onto the pelvic bone called the ischial tuberosity.

In this situation, the player may well require surgery to have the hamstring reattached.

4. Femoroacetabular Impingement:

Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI) is a condition where the contact between the ball (known as the femoral head) and the socket (called the acetabulum) becomes painful. FAI is most commonly due to irregularities in the bony shape of either the ball or socket of the hip.

This is a condition that can affect rugby players, often due to the repetitive movements and high-impact nature of the sport. 

FAI in rugby is often attributed to the following factors:

1. Mechanical Stress:

Rugby players engage in highly dynamic movements, including sprinting, tackling, and scrummaging, that place significant mechanical stress on the hip joint. Over time, this stress can lead to structural impairments or abnormal movement patterns in the hip joint, contributing to FAI.

2. Repetitive Movements:

The repetitive nature of rugby movements can exacerbate existing structural issues, leading to impingement.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of FAI can vary but commonly include:

  • Groin pain that worsens with activity, particularly during cutting, pivoting, or tackling.
  • Limited range of motion in the hip joint, especially with hip flexion and internal rotation.
  • A feeling of stiffness or “locking” in the hip.
  • Clicking or popping sensations in the hip during movement.
  • Gradual onset of hip discomfort and pain over time.

Treatment:

Treatment for FAI in rugby players depends on the severity of the condition but often involves a combination of conservative and surgical approaches:

Rest and Physiotherapy:

Initially, rest and physiotherapy may be recommended to alleviate symptoms and improve hip joint mobility and strength.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to manage pain and inflammation.

Corticosteroid Injections:

In some cases, corticosteroid injections into the hip joint can provide temporary pain relief.

Surgery:

When conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgery may be necessary. There are two common surgical procedures for FAI:

This minimally invasive procedure involves reshaping or removing damaged tissue from the hip joint to alleviate impingement. It is often preferred in less severe cases.

  •  Open Surgery

This is far less common and only reserved for more advanced cases, when structural abnormalities are extensive and a larger incision is required to correct the hip joint’s anatomy.

Prevention and Conclusion

While hip injuries are common in rugby, players can take several steps to reduce their risk. Adequate warm-up and stretching routines, proper technique during tackles and scrums, and maintaining overall physical fitness can all contribute to injury prevention.

Having a biomechanical assessment can help reduce the risk of injuries; ensuring that players are well-conditioned and have balanced muscle strength can go a long way in preventing these common and often frustrating injuries on the rugby field.

Early recognition of symptoms and appropriate treatment can significantly improve the chances of a full recovery, allowing players to get back to enjoying the game they love. Remember, safety should always be a top priority in rugby to ensure a long and healthy playing career.

How can London Bridge Orthopaedics help:

At London Bridge Orthopaedics we have three specialist hip consultants, who regularly see all of the above conditions both in their NHS practices and privately. Jerome Davidson, Venu Kavarthapu and Arfan Malhi. Click on the images to view their profiles.

If you are experiencing any of the conditions or symptoms described in this article, please don’t hesitate to book a consultation with one of our expert specialists.

Please call our booking line or you can fill out a booking form and someone will contact you asap.

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