Six Nations — a hymn to rugby

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In the President’s Box, watching South African Rugby — photo: A Brooks

One of Rugby Union’s big, international events – The Six Nations Championship – kicked off this weekend, and we’re looking forward to the great sport the event will offer through mid-March (the last competitions take place March 18).

I have a soft spot for rugby (union and league), though it is a sport I never played myself (a middle- and long-distance track runner, I would have been eaten up and spit out on the rugby pitch). I’ve lived at different times in southern Africa and New Zealand, where I was exposed to the glorious traditions of both Springbok and All Blacks rugby.  And I did my sports medicine training under Dr. Lyle Micheli, whom many know played rugby well into his sixties.  Inevitably, one gets to take care of plenty of rugby athletes when spending some time with Dr. Micheli.

Rugby is a sport that combines collision with endurance, fierce play with fluid movement.  It is also a sport about which it has been written:  “Rugby is a game for barbarians played by gentlemen. Football is a game for gentlemen played by barbarians.”  I don’t intend on offending fans of soccer/football, but I do want to emphasize the special character of so many of the players, coaches, referees and others I see in the sport of rugby.

“Building character since 1886”:  that’s how World Rugby, the sport’s international governing body states their mission.

Consequently I have become, over time, increasingly involved with USA Rugby and have written several of these CJSM blog posts on various issues related to the sport.  My interest continues to grow.

This personal interest parallels the interest CJSM has in publishing research related to the sport. Read more of this post

Rugby World Cup 2015–A Retrospective

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Rugby World Cup–the ball was bigger this year 🙂 Pic from ‘FruitMonkey’, Wikimedia

How time flies!  It was not that long ago that the Rugby World Cup was starting off in England, and Japan was making history by beating the South African Springboks.  After 6 weeks and 271 tries, the final has taken place–the All Blacks are triumphant and the first side in history to hold three Rugby World Cup titles.

CJSM Editor Dawn Thompson has composed her thoughts about some of the events associated with this impressive tournament that began September 18 and ended today where it started, at Twickenham, the English home of the sport. 

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I have a confession to make…… I really don’t know very much about the game of Rugby! This is a particularly brave admission as I – a) am pursuing a career in sports and exercise medicine and b) live less than 5 miles down the road from Twickenham where the Rugby World Cup Final is about to take place. What I do know about Rugby however,  is that it involves 30 men tearing up and down the pitch with, to the unknowing eye seemingly few rules, inflicting quite horrendous injuries upon themselves before brushing themselves off and continuing on.

I’m sure of course there is much more to it than that and the above demonstrates that I clearly need to sit down and do what all medics do best which is study the topic! In the mean time though I can’t help but find watching the rugby interesting, not just from a sports point of view but from an injury perspective.

Rugby players are often selected based on height with players such as ex Welsh player  Shane Williams, at only 5ft7in often facing prejudice early in their career. 11 years ago in 2004 the average height of an All Black back-line player, was 6ft, today its stands at 6ft2in. Weight has also increased, the current wales center Jamie Roberts weights 17 stone compared to his counterpart in the 1970s who weighed in at 14 stone. Players are getting faster and stronger and this is probably in part due to the professionalism of the sport, understandably players train to be the best they can.

So far during the current tournament over 20 players have left early as a result of  injuries. World Rugby has stated that ‘”Injury rates at the elite level of the game have not increased since 2002.” They went on to say Read more of this post

Rugby World Cup 2015: “All In”

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Wallabies vs. Springboks: a potential fixture in #RWC2015 England Follow @CJSMOnLine during the World Cup to find out more.

The Rugby World Cup begins tomorrow in England, and I, like many others around the world, have been looking forward to this day for some time. It’s been on my mind at least since this blog post [‘Rugby’s Big Year(s)’], which I am republishing today.

Interest in the sport continues to grow here in the United States.  This interest is growing both in its own right–an awareness of the special excitement of rugby– and it is growing as there is increasing awareness of the sport’s impact on the broader world of football in general.  Rugby played midwife to American football, so to speak. The familial bond is still present: Jarryd Hayne, an Australian rugby player, just made his debut in an NFL regular season game; and the Wall Street Journal published an intriguing story today on the ‘thing or two’ that American football might learn from its mother sport.

I’ve written frequently on the sport in the pages of this blog, and the journal has published just as frequently on the subject.  And so we are ‘all in’ for the World Cup over the next six weeks.  Expect timely, topical posts on the sport medicine issues that arise as the games begin.

Among the other twitter feeds I’ll be following (and you should too):  @RugbyWorldCup (the official RWC2015 twitter feed); @WorldRugby (the official governing body of the sport, formerly known as the ‘IRB’); @Sharief_H (aka ‘Rugby Science); and @RugbySciNetwork (Rugby Science Network or ‘RSN’).  RSN is actually having an international conference on the sport and associated sport medicine, in Cape Town, and following the hashtag #RSN2015 will bring you a wealth of valuable information.

I’ll be travelling through South Africa and visiting Cape Town myself during the tournament, and so I’ll be sure to follow @Springboks as well.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be following a winner?  Or will it be the Pumas?  The All Blacks?  The Wallabies? Maybe the USA, ranked 15th in the world, will pull off the mother of all upsets?

We will find out at the end of October!

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine Blog

IMG_1008 Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas Nevada, site of the annual Rugby 7s tournament.

It’s amazing how time flies.  How is it already March?

It’s almost 7 p.m. and I’m writing by the light of a sun that is still above the horizon, thanks to one of my favorite inventions of the modern world: daylight savings time, which arrived last night.

This realization is a personal reminder, however, that I have been delinquent: meaning to write a blog post about an event that took place three weeks ago…..but, my oh my, business has just swamped me, I guess.

As the swallows return annually to San Juan Capistrano, so do the Rugby 7 squads of Kenya, South Africa, New Zealand and other countries come each February to the desert:  Las Vegas hosted the USA leg of the HSBC Sevens Series Feb 13 – 15.  It is the largest annual…

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A Blue Card for Rugby

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“All Blacks Haka” by Sonya & Jason Hills from London, UK

Rugby is wildly popular in New Zealand, and that’s no news for anyone who follows sports.

It may be less appreciated how much medical research on rugby and other sports comes from the Land of the Long White Cloud.  The University of Otago in Dunedin, for instance,  conducts a good amount of research on sports medicine in general, and on concussions in particular.  Recently, the University hosted a conference entitled ‘Understanding sports concussion:  facts and fallacies.’

Our intrepid reporter from New Zealand, Dr. Hamish Osborne, is on the editorial board of CJSM and has previously done some guest blog posts when he was attending the annual ACSP conference in Australia.  He was one of the faculty at the Otago lecture and I asked him to share with us any of the important topics addressed .  What follows is the current breaking news on how NZ Rugby is managing concussions.  Thanks Hamish!

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New Zealand Rugby Rolls out Concussion Blue Card (Dr. Hamish Osborne)

New Zealand rugby has approved the rollout of the “Blue Card” system to all levels of rugby in New Zealand with the exclusion of the professional programs.  Soccer has the yellow and red cards systems for misdemeanors. Rugby has a similar system for misdemeanors. The Blue Card will be shown to anybody who leaves the field or is required to leave the field for a suspected concussion.

Under the present rules of the game “an athlete with any symptoms following a head injury must be removed from playing or training. It is then recommended that a player is referred to a medical professional for diagnosis and guidance, even if the symptoms appear to have gone They must not return to activity until all symptoms have cleared.”The International Rugby Board (now known as ‘World Rugby’) regulation 10 New Zealand Domestic Law Safety Variation says that any player in New Zealand who has been concussed or suspected of being been concussed must follow IRB regulation 10 and the IRB concussion guidelines and clearance to return to play by a medical practitioner must always be obtained.2

Until now there has no been no paper trail to confirm that these rules are abided by. Read more of this post

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