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Biomechanics of the Rugby Scrum
Research Project for the International Rugby Board (acting through its operating entity IRFB Services (Ireland) Limited)

Biomechanics of the Rugby Scrum

Competitive scrummaging is a unique and valued component of rugby union. Effective scrummaging requires a pack of forwards to produce forceful and coordinated actions to ensure dominance over the opposition to provide a platform for launching attacks and to disrupt opposition ball. Unfortunately, due to the physical nature of this phase of play there may be associations of the scrum with chronic degenerative injuries to the spine and on very rare occasions catastrophic cervical spinal injuries do occur.

Despite this, little is known about the forces and motions involved in rugby scrummaging, with very little objective data being collected since the advent of professionalism over ten years ago. A need has been identified to re-visit the biomechanical demands experienced by players during the rugby scrum, particularly during scrum engagement, with a view to understanding more about how to maximise performance and how to manage injury risk.

This research programme will investigate the biomechanics of rugby scrummaging with a view to delivering objective data regarding the techniques and practices required to perform effective and safe scrummaging. The testing will involve forward packs from many different levels of the game (e.g. school, academy, women, community club, elite club and international) from as many different parts of the rugby playing world as possible. Information will be obtained on the individual and combined forces being generated during scrum engagement and the secondary shove as well as the body motions which accompany effective and safe scrummaging. The testing will look at how the measured variables alter due to different scrum engagement and binding techniques and will also highlight any differences between machine-based scrummaging and live scrummaging against an opposition pack.

The Project Outcome Objectives are to:

  • To establish the biomechanics of different scrummaging techniques to assess potential injury risk
  • To identify playing, coaching and match official techniques that provide for effective scrummaging with a reduced risk of serious injury to players
  • To provide data and information to enable Law amendments to be considered in relation to the scrum

This research will provide information on the biomechanical demands placed on players during the normal process of scrummaging under different conditions. From this, it will be possible for individual players, coaches and referees along with governing bodies to make informed decisions on how best to perform effective scrummaging whilst appropriately managing any reasonable risk involved.

Executive summary

Context:

Competitive scrummaging is a valued component of rugby union but this phase of play has been associated with chronic injuries and a disproportionate number of serious injuries to players.

Problem:

A need has been identified to re-visit the biomechanical demands experienced by players during the rugby scrum, particularly during scrum engagement.

Description:

This document sets out a programme of work to investigate the biomechanical demands of scrummaging in two main phases. Phase 1 will primarily deliver information on machine scrummaging and will further investigate opportunities for assessing live scrummaging. Phase 2 will investigate the biomechanics of live scrummaging.

Purpose:

The primary aim of this programme of work is to provide accurate, up-to-date information on the biomechanical demands experienced by rugby forwards during scrummaging with a view to providing objective evidence on techniques leading to effective and safe scrummaging.

Outcomes:

  • To establish the biomechanics of different scrummaging techniques to assess potential injury risk
  • To identify playing, coaching and match official techniques that provide for effective scrummaging with a reduced risk of serious injury to players
  • To provide data and information to enable Law amendments to be considered in relation to the scrum

Significance:

It is envisaged that this programme of work will provide valuable information to the International Rugby Board (IRB) and other stakeholders regarding the precise nature of the biomechanics of rugby scrummaging. The results will provide coaches and players with information regarding which techniques lead to more effective scrummaging and provide the IRB with objective data on which to help base decisions regarding future possible interventions / law changes to improve the safety of scrummaging and to benefit the long-term health of rugby players.

For more details of this research project, use the link below to download the full project scope.

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