Journal Watch – How Exercise Prevents Injury in Youth Rugby

In our previous Journal Watch we looked at how exercise prevents injury in impact sports. Whilst the study didn’t prove anything with conclusive data, there was a study which showed great results for school children playing American Football. Based on this, we have scoured the journals to find more evidence that might lead us towards a theory that targeted exercise can help prevent rugby injuries, at least in children.

Our searches were not in vein; the British Journal of Sport Medicine has recently published an article with the catchy title: ‘Reducing musculoskeletal injury and concussion risk in schoolboy rugby players with pre-activity movement control exercise programme: a cluster randomised controlled trial’. If you want a broken down, non-scientific review of the piece- read on!

 About the Study

The University of Bath were commissioned by the RFU to look at ways of preventing injury in youth rugby. As avid Rugby players and fans, this is a subject close to our heart at Bearhug Sports- anything that can be done to prevent injury is going to be seen as a positive!

 Some Pre-Match Exercises!

The training and pre-match exercise set was developed by the University of Bath and RFU team as part of the study. It focuses on balance, strength and agility in order to better prepare players for the physical challenges they face in matches and to mitigate potential injury risks. We were a bit concerned that it would be an unrealistic length, but were delighted to find out that it only takes about 20 minutes to complete, so can easily be integrated into a pre-match setting.

Check out the video on their Vimeo page

 How the Study Worked

The study looked at under 15s and under 18 male rugby players for an entire season. This involved 118 teams and 3188 players aged 14–18 years. These players were set to receive either the above exercises or a standard programme, both of which were to be delivered by school coaches. The amount of time they were out injured was then recorded and logged by their teachers and coaches.


Doing the exercises caused a reduction in injuries, even including concussion. To get the most benefit it was worked out that the students should do the exercises three times per week. One of the people behind the study sums it up well:

“Our results are exciting because they show that carrying out a simple set of exercises on a regular basis can substantially reduce injuries in youth rugby. We believe these findings will have a significant impact in helping to improve player welfare, making the game safer for young players to enjoy.”

 The Bottom Line Data

The study which involved 40 schools and nearly 2,500 players aged 14 – 18, the researchers found that overall, injuries fell by 72% when players completed the new exercises at least three times a week. Concussion injuries were reduced by 59%.


The RFU, (who commissioned the study) will be using these findings to improve the way that exercise is used in youth rugby across England. Whilst we are not sure how this is going to directly impact other areas of the world at this stage, we would expect that the WRU and other bodies are watching very closely to see how they can improve their programmes.

 And Adults?

The results are impressive, but they seem to repeat similar information generated by the aforementioned American Football Study. Despite the success of this, there have been a few studies that have showed injury prevention in adults is a trickier subject- if you want to read more about it, check out our previous Journal Watch article.

The writers of the study also included work completed in collaboration with World Rugby, the RFU and the RFU Injured Players Foundation. This work had a huge impact on the game, as it was found that the scrum was a dangerous cause of unnecessary injury. This resulted in the change in scrum engagement technique to ‘crouch, bind, set’ which was introduced globally in 2013 through the World Rugby Law change.


That’s all we’ve got for you today, be sure to follow Bearhug Sports for more insight into injuries and injury prevention!