Selecting Rugby Equipment
Physical Therapy in St. Louis West County for Rugby
Welcome to Breakthrough Performance & Wellness’s guide for selecting rugby equipment. Breakthrough Performance & Wellness provides services for Physical Therapy in St. Louis West County. We recommend a few general considerations for selecting your equipment, or ‘rugby kit’, in order to stay comfortable and minimize injury while playing rugby.
A scrum cap is a slightly padded soft helmet with chin strap and is designed to protect the brain and skull from the impacts inherent in rugby. In addition the scrum cap protects the head from the common cuts and scrapes to the scalp and more importantly protects the ears from the repetitive friction that occurs during scrumming or rucking which can lead to ‘cauliflower ear’ (see common rugby injuries.) In regards to concussions, a scrum cap is obviously not as protective as the hard helmets used in sports such as football, however, there is some evidence that suggests they may reduce the impact of the blows to head so, although they are not mandatory for the sport, it is a highly recommended piece of equipment. In order to maximize the ability of the scrum cap to protect the head, it should be well fitted such that it does not slide with impact or movement of the head. Rule regulations indicate the maximum thickness of the padding allowable. It is advisable to choose the thickest padding available and a cap that which covers the greatest area of the head. It is worthy to be reminded that a new scrum cap will provide maximum protection as the padding has not been worn down from impact. For this reason, the cap should be inspected each season and replaced as necessary. The chin strap should feel comfortable and be worn tautly to ensure the ear portions of the cap do not cause friction across the ears. Peripheral vision should not be restricted by the scrum cap, however, it is preferable to lose some peripheral vision at the cost of protecting the head.
Mouth guards are designed to absorb some of the impact from blows to the jaw and teeth and should be worn when playing rugby. Standard mouth guards are available in most sporting stores, but they tend to be bulky and do no provide good protection due to their inability to mold to individual teeth configurations. A moldable plastic mouth guard is also often available in sporting stores and is an alternative to the standard mouth guard. These types of guards are made from a soft moldable plastic that can be melted in hot water and then placed in the mouth so that they mold to the shape of the teeth. These guards can still feel bulky and therefore may interfere with breathing, however, they would be recommended above the standard guard. If you are an avid rugby player, it would be worthy to get a custom fitted mouth guard to provide maximum protection. These guards are made by a dental professional and molded from a special shock absorbing material. Custom mouth guards mold exactly to the fit of the individual player’s mouth anatomy and therefore provide maximum protection.
Body armour is designed to provide protection to the upper extremity. The body armour is essentially a well-fitted slightly padded shirt. Varieties include those with only shoulder padding or those that provide protection to the shoulders, back and chest. Body armour is not mandatory but is highly recommended as it reduces the impact to these areas which will in turn reduce the number of injuries as well the severity of these injuries. Choose armour that is comfortable and provides the maximum thickness of padding allowable by rule regulations. Again, as with the scrum-cap, inspect the armour regularly as any decrease in padding thickness due to impact over the season will decrease the armour’s protection capabilities.
Performance shorts (also known as training or compression shorts) are form-fitted shorts made from a polyester or polyester/elastin blend. These shorts, due to their compressive forces on the leg blood flow, are thought to assist in injury prevention as well as improve power performance, reduce muscle fatigue, and assist in muscle recovery. There is some research evidence to support these claims and due to this, the use of these shorts are nearly universal now for rugby players. In addition, the polyester material used assists in wicking away sweat from the body which decreases the water weight usually built up in traditional cotton shorts. Unfortunately, the downside is that performance shorts can be expensive. If you can afford them and play rugby regularly, it would be recommended that you try performance shorts to determine their individual usefulness for you. Buy shorts that are comfortable and well-fitted. With many varieties available, it is recommended that you confer with your teammates and the shop clerk as a starting point in finding the right pair for you.
A jockstrap is an important piece of equipment for males in any contact sport and rugby is no exception. The jock provides solid protection to the genitalia which in turn reduces the number and severity of injuries incurred due to impact to this area. It should be well fitted and feel comfortable when running and squatting. If possible, wear your jockstrap when you are choosing your performance shorts to ensure they fit comfortably together.
Footwear selection is crucial for all rugby players in order to maximize speed on the field and to prevent injury. Traditionally rugby footwear have been called ‘rugby boots’ however the previously worn high-top ‘boot’ has over time been replaced by the low-cut or mid-cut shoe. Most players feel that the lower cut shoes are lighter, allow more ankle mobility, and therefore may translate into more speed when running. The mid-cut variety offers a better balance between injury protection and mobility. The rugby boot also comes in both ‘soft-ground’ and ‘hard-ground’ varieties. The difference in these types of boots is primarily the type and number of studs. Soft-ground boots have fewer and longer studs which provide greater traction in softer or wetter fields whereas the hard-ground boot have more studs that are shorter and provide greater traction on a harder playing field. Both types of boots are designed to allow maximum gripping and decrease the chance of injury from slipping, however, it should be noted that the nature of studs themselves does predispose the knee and ankle to twisting injuries due to the more solid planting of the foot than would occur in stud-less type footwear. Nonetheless, if you are an avid rugby player it is recommended that you own both soft-ground and hard-ground rugby boots. However, if you are a recreational player, choose a rugby boot that best suits the field or conditions that you will most often be playing on.
Keeping hydrated will help you stay alert while playing rugby. It may also help to prevent muscle cramps and will help your post game recovery. Taking your own drink bottles to training or a game helps you to keep track of your fluid intake. We recommend that you drink about 300-400 mL before you play (ref: http://www.ausport.gov.au/sportscoachmag/nutrition2/pre-event_nutrition), and 250mL (1 cup) of water or sports drink every 20 minutes of physical playing/training time or time in the sun, and for one hour after your game. These are just general guidelines as fluid requirements will vary depending on the environmental conditions and your body size. Remember, the more fluid you lose through sweat, the more you will have to replace. To check that you are adequately hydrating, you can weigh yourself before and after your games or training. If your weight remains the same then you are likely to be well hydrated. Also, remember that by the time you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated, so drink frequently and don’t let thirst alone determine your fluid intake.