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Injury and biomechanical perspectives on the rugby scrum: a review of the literature
  1. Grant Trewartha1,
  2. Ezio Preatoni1,
  3. Michael E England1,2,
  4. Keith A Stokes1
  1. 1Department for Health, Sport, Health and Exercise Science, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  2. 2Rugby Football Union, Twickenham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Grant Trewartha, Department for Health, Sport, Health and Exercise Science, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK; g.trewartha{at}bath.ac.uk

Abstract

As a collision sport, rugby union has a relatively high overall injury incidence, with most injuries being associated with contact events. Historically, the set scrum has been a focus of the sports medicine community due to the perceived risk of catastrophic spinal injury during scrummaging. The contemporary rugby union scrum is a highly dynamic activity but to this point has not been well characterised mechanically. In this review, we synthesise the available research literature relating to the medical and biomechanical aspects of the rugby union scrum, in order to (1) review the injury epidemiology of rugby scrummaging; (2) consider the evidence for specific injury mechanisms existing to cause serious scrum injuries and (3) synthesise the information available on the biomechanics of scrummaging, primarily with respect to force production. The review highlights that the incidence of acute injury associated with scrummaging is moderate but the risk per event is high. The review also suggests an emerging acknowledgement of the potential for scrummaging to lead to premature chronic degeneration injuries of the cervical spine and summarises the mechanisms by which these chronic injuries are thought to occur. More recent biomechanical studies of rugby scrummaging confirm that scrum engagement forces are high and multiplanar, but can be altered through modifications to the scrum engagement process which control the engagement velocity. As the set scrum is a relatively ‘controlled’ contact situation within rugby union, it remains an important area for intervention with a long-term goal of injury reduction.

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