By Alison Quinn
I’m thinking of taking up tag rugby as a fun way to keep fit and also meet people. But I’m a little worried about picking up injuries. I’m never really played team sports before. Any advice?
Tag rugby is now one of the biggest participation sports in Ireland and with mixed teams and a social element also attached; it has become very popular with both men and women, young and old, regardless of their interest in rugby.
For the uninitiated, tag Rugby is a non-contact sports with players wearing velcro shorts, to which are attached two ‘tags’, when one of these is pulled off you have been tackled and have to stop!
Great fun and great exercise.
However, despite being a non-contact sport tag rugby, like any sport, is not without injury-risk for the players. Certainly injuries of the shoulder, neck and back would be less common than in contact sports but that is not to say that injuries do not occur.
With a lot of running and quick changes of movement comes the risk of twisted ankles, twisted knees and muscle strains. The ‘tag’ element of the game, which replaces the contact of full rugby, ironically introduces its own specific range of hand and finger injuries. The range of injuries is quite broad with regard to tag rugby and this is the same for all sports involving running with a lot of twisting and turning.
Tag rugby includes quick starts and stops so there is always a risk of straining muscles particularly the hamstrings. The hamstring acts as a brake when slowing down from a fast run. This type of injury may occur suddenly and be felt as a sharp pain in the back of the thigh usually requiring the player to come off the field. Alternatively it may occur over a period of time from fatigue. In this case the player may be able to play on but they notice that their speed isn’t what it used to be.
Players can also experience cramping in their calf muscles which can be a result of a number of factors; from a lack of proper hydration to simply inflexible calf muscles.
Injuries that are specific to tag rugby include wrist and finger injuries. If the ‘tag’ is not pulled firmly there is a danger of one of the fingers, usually the little finger, catching against the clothing of the opposition and causing a sprain or even a fracture. If the ‘tag’ is missed, a player can fall on an outstretched hand which can result in a wrist sprain or fracture.
As with all sports, some injuries are due to bad luck and cannot be avoided but there are some handy tips to keep your injuries to a minimum during your season.
Most players have been sitting at a desk before they play their match, so ensure you warm up before play to increase blood flow to the muscles and prepare the body for activity.
Muscle strains and joint sprains can occur when the body has cooled down and then has to increase activity quickly. Jog a few laps of the pitch before the game and very importantly before the next round of matches. Injury can occur when there is a bit of fatigue from a previous game coupled with a cool-down period. A warm-up as described above is generally better before exercise than a stretching regime.
Stretch at the end of your tag rugby evening to improve the range of motion in the joints and muscles. The type of stretches needed depends on what muscles tend to be tight and varies from person to person. You should only stretch until you feel a slight pull in the muscle. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat one to three times.
As for grabbing hold of those elusive ‘tags’, try to take a firm grip of the ‘tag’ in order to minimise getting some of your fingers caught in the opposition’s clothing.
Finally, if you are going into a tag rugby season with an old injury that has not resolved or you are aware of a recurring weakness, it is worth getting the area assessed by a chartered physiotherapist who will guide you through appropriate rehabilitation in order that you get the most out of your game.
Alison Quinn is Head of Physiotherapy at the Sports Surgery Clinic
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