International Rugby Players and World Rugby have launched new guidelines for contact in training.
Based on best practice and after feedback from almost 600 professional players, the guidelines are aimed at reducing injury and boosting performance for elite players.
The recommendations include weekly limits of 15 minutes for full contact training, 30 minutes for set piece training and 40 minutes for controlled contact.
A review and research programme will monitor the application of the guidelines and encourage consistent application across the professional game.
Teams including Leinster (Ireland) Clermont Auvergne (France) and Benetton (Italy) will take part in a trial to measure their training and match contact, using mouthguard technology and video analysis.
While the incidence of training injuries is low relative to that of matches, the volume of training performed means that a relatively high proportion (35 per cent to 40 per cent) of all injuries during a season occur during training, with the majority of these being soft tissue injuries.
International Rugby Player’s Chief Executive Omar Hassanein said: “This project represents a significant and very relevant piece of work relating to contact load. We’ve worked closely with our member bodies in gathering approximately 600 responses from across the globe, allowing us to have sufficient data to then be assessed by industry experts.
“The processing of this data has led to some quite specific recommendations which are designed to protect our players from injuries relating to excessive contact load. We will continue to work with World Rugby as we monitor the progress of these recommendations and undertake further research in this area.”
World Rugby Director of Rugby and High Performance and former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt added: “Training has increasingly played an important role in injury-prevention as well as performance. While there is already significantly less full contact training than many people might imagine, it is our hope that having a central set of guidelines will further inform players and coaches of the progression, key considerations and volume/intensity of any contact that is done during training.
“These new guidelines, developed by leading experts and supported by the game, are by necessity a work in progress and will be closely monitored and further researched to understand the positive impact on player welfare.”
The guidelines are based on a global study undertaken by International Rugby Players of almost 600 players participating across 18 elite men’s and women’s competitions, and a comprehensive review of the latest injury data. This reveals that training patterns vary across competitions, with an average of 21 minutes per week of full contact training and an average total contact load of 118 minutes per week.
International Rugby Players Head of Strategic Projects and Research Sene Naoupu said: “This contact load initiative reflects International Rugby Players and World Rugby’s ambition to make rugby all it can be for players. Training accounts for approximately 85-95 per cent of all player load, so it’s a key area of focus in relation to injury prevention.
🎥 CONTACT IN TRAINING— InternationalRugbyPlayers (@IntRugbyPlayers) September 23, 2021
Our Head of Projects @SeneNaoupu spoke to hundreds of players around the issue of contact in training and worked with @worldrugby to bring together new guidelines.
Go to https://t.co/fCSq92hV6R for more info! pic.twitter.com/wCdiDkA2Mc
“This guidance is based on comprehensive and collaborative research, player feedback involving 600 elite men’s and women’s players across 18 elite competitions and expert input, including a study of contact training volume and type.
“While this is the first step of the implementation and monitoring process, it is an incredible outcome that shows just how much players care about this area. It also provides a foundation to review and determine future direction of implementation across the game, towards an evidence-based injury-prevention programme for performance and welfare.”
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