There is always a risk of getting injured when playing rugby. This may result in players missing out on training and matches for weeks or months and may also have many other consequences, which, if not addressed, can lead to a recurrent cycle of injury. Nutrition during this time is absolutely critical to promote speedy recovery.
In SA Rugby's Practical Nutrition for Rugby guide, they discuss the nutritional needs for an injured rugby player.
Precise nutritional considerations will vary depending on the type of injury as well the individual situation. However, a change in energy expenditure is common to all injuries and this is exaggerated if players are unable to train for long periods of time. Gaining fat mass and losing much-needed muscle mass makes rehabilitation more problematic.
The additional fat gain places an extra load on the injured body part once training is resumed, placing players at more risk for further injury. Thus, central to rehabilitation is the avoidance of muscle mass loss and fat mass gain, which requires a combination of a modified eating plan and a rehabilitation training programme.
Ensure that adequate carbohydrate and fluid (e.g. a sports drink) is consumed to avoid fatigue during training/playing a match. Immediately after training or the match, have a recovery snack/drink to replenish muscle energy stores which helps repair of any muscle damage.
Avoid alcohol immediately after a match and if injured no alcohol should be consumed for 24-48 hours as it delays recovery by causing extra swelling and bleeding.
Note that inappropriate creatine use may cause an unnecessary load on the muscles of growing players, increasing the risk of injury.
To reduce unwanted fat mass gain and prevent loss of muscle mass when injured Energy in should not exceed energy out. This means cutting back on total food intake, especially concentrated sources of calories from foods that are typically used when training (e.g. sports drinks, bars, recovery snacks).
Avoid eating out of boredom and resorting to high-fat comfort foods such as crisps, chocolates, cakes, etc.