This post is sponsored by Bluefin Sport, a specialist team offering sports insurance solutions and risk management advice.
No amount of protective equipment is going to make you invincible on the rugby field. Nevertheless, from cauliflower ear right down to a sprained ankle, the right gear can help you stave off many of the sport’s occupational hazards. So from head to toe, here’s a rundown of eight handy pieces of safety kit.
Most players will be all too aware of the recent debate surrounding the issue of rugby and head injury. Against this backdrop, one thing’s for certain: it’s important to remember that a scrum cap is certainly not designed to prevent concussion. Primarily, these caps are meant to reduce the likelihood of abrasions and cuts, including, of course, the infamous ‘cauliflower ear’.
There’s always the risk of picking up a nick in an in-play ruck or maul. Over and above this, the very nature of scrummaging means that the tight five are particularly likely to pick up ear abrasions. The scrum cap provides a barrier against this friction.
As with all pieces of rugby safety equipment, it’s best to try a cap on before buying (rather than ordering blindly over the internet) as a poorly fitting cap can be hot and uncomfortable. Caps are typically priced between £20 and £50. But remember; whichever cap you choose, it’s not a crash helmet.
As well as cushioning your teeth and gums against impacts, mouth guards (gum shields) can also a useful degree of protection against broken or dislocated jaws. ‘Boil in the bag’ shields are the simplest and cheapest option. Formed from thermo-moulded plastics, you heat the guard, apply it to your mouth and it moulds to the contours of your gums and teeth.
The next step up in terms of protection and comfort is to get a tailor-made sports mouth guard from your dentist. Your dentist should thoroughly check the way your jaws bite together for the most accurate fit possible. The cost of this treatment for an adult tends to start at around £120.
Youngsters whose teeth are still moving into position need to replace their mouth guard regularly to fit the changing shape of their mouth.
These are essentially lycra vests that feature removable shoulder pads. Some also include padding that covers the biceps and the upper section of the ribcage. Their potential value is in their ability to take the edge off the force of a heavy tackle in match-play and/or against the combined effect of multiple knocks during training sessions. The typical cost is between £20 and £50.
Thermal base layer
There’s more to a base layer than just keeping you snug on a wet November afternoon. Cold muscles are more susceptible to straining injuries, and it’s much harder for your core muscles to stay warm on the coldest of days – even with a thorough warm-up. Effective base layers start at around £25 and work by trapping a layer of warm air close to your body to aid with temperature regulation.
If your knee feels unstable or you notice a ‘niggle’, the way forward is to seek advice from your GP rather than self-diagnosing. In fact, with certain types of knee condition, masking the problem with a sleeve can end up doing more harm than good.
But once you’ve had the problem checked out, the right knee support can go a long way in aiding your safe return to rugby and in protecting you from further damage. Simple compression sleeves are often recommended for ongoing minor conditions that require minimal support. For other conditions, a knee brace might be called for. These provide support as well as targeted protection for a specific area of the knee structure. Always follow the advice of your doctor or physio on what type of support to use.
Anyone can pick up a boot to the lower leg, but once again, it’s the forwards who are generally most exposed. Lightweight, comfortable and available at the £10-£20, shin pads should be an essential part of your kit – whatever your position.
With boots, you require the grip necessary to stay upright in wet, heavy conditions, whereas on firmer surfaces you’ll want to be able to maximise speed and handle swift changes of direction. The safest and generally most sensible option is therefore to buy a set of long and short studs, allowing you to switch according to the conditions.
Fit and design depends on your position and personal preference. For a forward a higher ankle cut can provide a reassuring extra element of support in the scrum. For a back, an ultra-snug fit and low cut can aid mobility.
For increased support (and comfort) opt for elasticated socks with extra cushioning bank at the ankle and arch of the foot. Do not allow your socks to deteriorate to the point that they are literally falling apart before replacing them.
Concerned about keeping your team in the safest possible hands? One of the UK’s leading suppliers of rugby insurance, Bluefin Sports can provide advice and guidance on providing your squad with the protection they deserve.
The content of this blog is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly.