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World Rugby launches ground-breaking preventive exercise programme designed to reduce injuries

  • World Rugby committed to evidence-based injury-prevention and making rugby as safe and simple to play as possible
  • Activate is a simple-to-implement exercise programme that reduces the risk of injuries in the game and contributes to player performance
  • If implemented regularly, Activate can reduce the risk of concussion by 29-60 per cent in youth and adult players
  • Trainers and educators around the globe now delivering the programme at community level

World Rugby has launched a major new injury-prevention programme ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019 with the showcase event set to raise awareness and accelerate its use globally.

With the international federation committed to rugby leading the way in evidence-based injury-prevention, Activate is a simple and dynamic exercise programme with proven injury-prevention benefits.

Research co-led by England Rugby and the University of Bath in England has shown that the Activate programme can reduce the risk of soft-tissue injuries by 26 and 40 per cent and concussion risk by 29 and 60 per cent in youth and adult rugby players, respectively. There may be greater reductions in the risk of these injuries if players use the programme as regularly and frequently as is practical.

A core component of World Rugby’s Rugby Ready programme, Activate is being rolled-out across unions and regional associations via the international federation’s global network of qualified educators and trainers, who will build delivery capacity within union coaching networks. Major programmes have been run in Africa, North America and Oceania as the roll-out continues.

The programme is also available in 11 languages online via https://iris.world.rugby/coaching/activate-injury-prevention-exercise-programmewhere supportive educational materials, including video and cue cards can be accessed to guide implementation.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “As the game’s global governing body, we continually strive to ensure that the game is simple, enjoyable and safe to play as possible. Activate is an example of that commitment – a research-led, proven injury-prevention programme that can be implemented at any level of the game, anywhere in the world. It has the potential to be a game-changer.”

The objective is to lower the risk of injury by encouraging coaches and players to regularly integrate Activate exercises into their training sessions and pre-match routines. There are four different versions of the exercise programme, an adult version and three age grade versions and each programme consists of a number of progressive phases, which should be undertaken for a set time before moving onto the next.

World Rugby Chief Medical Officer, Dr Martin Raftery said: “World Rugby works continually to optimise approaches to managing player welfare across all levels of rugby. The Activate programme is another example of this ongoing commitment, which is particularly important because of the emphasis on reducing the risk of injuries across community levels of the game. The research so far has demonstrated that the exercise programme can help to reduce injuries in youth and adult rugby.”

Activate developer Dr. Mike Hislop added: “In addition to having proven injury-prevention benefits, by reducing the amount of time missed from rugby because of injuries, Activate can contribute to improving player performance and boosting the chances of team success. We hope all coaches and players understand the significance of this programme and incorporate the exercises into their training and pre-match routines.”

Activate consists of simple, user-friendly exercises designed to improve general movement control, muscle activation, strength and power. There are also several neck exercises to develop stability and mobility of the head/neck region; it is thought that these exercises may help to reduce the potential ‘whiplash’ effects that can occur with concussion.

Mark Harrington, World Rugby’s Head of Technical Services and Director of Rugby at Skerries RFC in Ireland added: “We introduced the youth and adult versions of the Activate programme across several teams at the club during the 2017/18 season. Led by our coaches, the programme has grown to become an accepted part of training sessions and pre-match warm-ups for the players.

We have also taken the opportunity to adapt some parts of the programme to better-suit our needs and keep things fresh, such as breaking the programme up into parts to be completed during training sessions instead of as a warm-up. Although based on only a few teams, we have noticed that fewer players are turning up to training with knocks while player availability for matches has been better than in recent years. Because of this, we have decided to continue using the Activate programme.”

Rugby players, parents and coaches are all encouraged to visit www.worldrugby.org/playerwelfare to download the free Activate resources, including a useful online ‘virtual’ training course.

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