The International Rugby Board and the University of Bath have unveiled a unique study of the scrum to improve player welfare.
The two-year study - the Biomechanics of the Rugby Scrum - supported by the Rugby Football Union, the governing body of the sport in England, was launched at the University of Bath this afternoon.
Funded by the International Rugby Board, the study will provide an in-depth analysis of the biomechanical forces between all positions in the scrum, using controlled live and scrum machine situations in order to identify better playing, coaching and refereeing techniques for this key facet of the Game.
Leading experts from the coaching, medical and scientific fields will drive the two-phase study which will analyse the whole spectrum of the rugby playing population, from elite professional teams to University, community club and school level.
With the safety and welfare of players central to the IRB's medical strategies, the programme will deliver a framework for a better understanding of the scrum, the loads that players are subjected to under a variety of conditions and the cause of associated issues such as collapses and how best to address key areas while ensuring that the welfare of the player always comes first.
The project will be headed up by Dr Grant Trewartha and Dr Keith Stokes from the Sport, Health & Exercise Science group at Bath in collaboration with force monitoring experts Structural Statics Ltd and with medical input from Dr Mike England, Community Rugby Medical Director for the RFU who is also an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Medicine at the University. The project will also regularly consult with and feed back to a number of rugby partners, including senior scrum coaches from major Unions and experienced scrum practitioners such as Rugby Players' Association Chairman and Bath Rugby prop David Barnes.
The first phase of the programme, which gets under way this month, will focus on measuring scrum engagement forces with a study of elite and community packs scrummaging under a variety of strictly monitored conditions on an instrumented scrum machine. The second phase will involve live pack scenarios, during which the same groups who had previously used the machine will be tested under a variety of strictly controlled engagement sequences.
"We are delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Bath to deliver what will be the most comprehensive study of the scrum. The University of Bath's Sport, Health & Exercise Science group are world leaders in this type of study and we are excited about what can be achieved for the Game through the delivery of this ambitious project," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"The scrum is an integral area of the Game and the analysis will provide a comprehensive set of research and data that will shape a better understanding of the dynamic forces at work in the set scrum, identify key focus areas and shape player welfare policy, promoting the best possible techniques for playing, coaching and refereeing this unique area of the Game."
Dr Grant Trewartha, principal investigator on the project, added: "We are excited to be involved in the project and look forward to providing data to inform future scrummaging practices. It's great to be involved with the IRB for such a large scale project which broadens our contribution to the science of rugby."
Dr Mike England added: "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 10 years ago. Along with the IRB we have identified a need to look at 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.
"The RFU is currently working with the Sport, Health & Exercise Science group on an injury surveillance project of grassroots clubs and we are pleased to be able to input into a new major project with the University and the IRB."
Key IRB medical research funded through the £48 million global strategic investment programme includes: Global injury consensus document; IRB tournament surveys; age grade research; injury risk associated with tackling in Rugby Union (BJSM); comparison of the incidence and nature of Rugby injuries sustained on artificial turf and grass; catastrophic spinal cord injury research (BJSM); 3rd international conference on concussion (partner); 2nd world congress on sports injury prevention (partner) and expert medical strategy working groups (Concussion, Catastrophic Injuries and Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Infectious Diseases and Asthema).
Key IRB Player Welfare initiatives: Rugby Ready (launched 2007), IRB interactive Laws Website (launched 2009), Keep Rugby Clean (anti-doping education across all IRB tournaments) and annual IRB Medical Conference.
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