There are around half a million players playing rugby in South Africa, and being a contact sport, there is an associated risk of serious or catastrophic injury. With this in mind, SA Rugby has developed the BokSmart National Rugby Safety Programme which aims to reduce rugby-related serious and catastrophic concussion, head, neck and spinal injuries.
BokSmart’s main pillars are injury prevention, injury management, rugby safety and performance. It’s a comprehensive approach to ensure that the game grows, and at the same time, player performance improves, rugby becomes more enjoyable and critically, players are kept safe on the field.
Here are BokSmart’s Top 10 Commandments for playing winning rugby and preventing sports injury:
- Eat and drink right for rugby
An inadequate diet can prevent a player from reaching optimal performance levels. Maintaining ideal hydration and nutrition levels requires attention before, during and after exercise.
To reduce fatigue and ensure that you have enough energy to play the game, check out the BokSmart website – www.boksmart.com – which has practical nutrition guidelines for the rugby player, including nutrition and hydration requirements before, during and after rugby, alcohol and caffeine guidelines, information on supplements, and detailed eating plans for a variety of situations and requirements.
- Condition your body properly
Resistance-training and physical conditioning is an extremely important part of injury prevention in rugby. Excessive fatigue and lack of strength, conditioning, concentration and control exposes one to a greater risk of severe injury in a contact sport.
Strong muscles provide stronger, more stable joints, reduce the risk of injury and can tolerate more bumps and bruises. This is especially important when it comes to the neck or cervical spine.
Over the years, players have become fitter, bigger, stronger and faster, and if you are under-developed and not appropriately conditioned, you are at greater risk of getting injured.
BokSmart provides evidence-based, rugby-specific fitness conditioning guidelines and programs for players at all levels of rugby, from U13 age-group all the way to senior rugby. All resistance exercises and fitness drills are detailed and explained in full on the BokSmart website.
- Warm up before and cool down after your game
A 10 – 25 minute warm-up session before a game or practice session is vital. By progressing from easy (e.g. jogging) to moderate (e.g. running) to high intensity (e.g. sprinting) and also incorporating movement patterns and dynamic stretches that are similar to what you are about to do in the session or match, will prepare the mind and body for the harder activities to follow. Cooling down for 5 – 15 minutes after training or a game allows the mind and body to relax and start the process of physical recovery.
- Learn safe techniques
The tackle, ball carries and scrum are most renowned for incurring serious and/or catastrophic injuries. Coached to correctly execute these tasks in a safe and effective manner not only keeps you safer on the field, it also improves individual player performance and indirectly boosts your team.
Focusing in-depth on key techniques and ideal body positions for all of these tasks, including rucks, mauls and line-outs, BokSmart has identified best practice methods for injury prevention and peak performance.
- Respect the game
Keep the playing field level by avoiding foul play. Respect yourself, the opposition, the officials and the laws of the game. Win with honour and lose with dignity. Stay calm and remember, the referee is in charge – support him by playing fair and respecting his decisions.
Play your part and ensure that rugby is played in good spirit, in a disciplined and fair manner, and without any unnecessary rough play and malice.
- Know how to deal with injuries
BokSmart has developed medical protocols to provide coaches, referees, and players with a better understanding of injuries, how to prevent them and how they should be managed appropriately.
The primary focus is on the appropriate identification and management of potentially serious concussion, head, neck and spine injuries on the field, and BokSmart provides detailed clinical best practice guidelines for these situations.
- Protect your assets
BokSmart provides practical guidelines regarding the most effective forms of protective equipment in rugby such as head gear, mouth guards, shoulder pads, compression garments, and also provides the scientific evidence that supports or negates their effectiveness in preventing injury.
- Look after yourself and your mates
Injury reporting is all about gathering information on injuries so that we can learn about why and how they happen – and find ways to prevent similar injuries happening again.
Players should be encouraged to tell the coach about injuries. Minor injuries can get worse if a player never gets a chance to heal completely. If not done, this can have serious consequences, particularly with respect to concussion, head, neck or spine injuries.
- Prevention is the best cure
Before the pre-season training starts, every player should have his health and physical condition assessed. Factors to look at are first-time players, players with any pre-existing injuries or a history of concussions, neck injuries etc.
Player profiling gives a coach biographical details on a player (contact details, injuries, allergies, medical conditions, history of injury and recovery and performance statistics) that can be used for screening of players at risk, and as a base for comparison later in the season, particularly when injuries occur or are suspected. In-depth injury prevention programs, including crucial neck and shoulder conditioning, are also outlined on the website.
- Insist that your coach is BokSmart certified and memorise the BokSmart Spineline emergency number – 0800 678 678
BokSmart provides a toll-free national emergency telephone help line that is linked to ER24 to accelerate the emergency treatment and management of a potentially seriously concussion, head, neck or spine injured player.
The agenda for safer, smarter, better rugby has been determined, and once BokSmart’s protocol has been absorbed by everybody connected with the game, a BokSmart certification card will be issued to all of those coaches and referees who have attended the Rugby Safety workshops.
Only those who are in possession of a card will be allowed to coach or referee the game of rugby.
BokSmart’s website – www.boksmart.com – has a wealth of information that covers in depth all the information mentioned above, plus more. Follow the commandments and become a better player for you and your team, and ultimately for South African rugby.-(Press release, October 2009)