As Ireland’s centre Robbie Henshaw ends his Natwest Six Nationes campaign with a dislocated shoulder, the list of leading players missing from action continues to mount up.
We speak to leading orthopaedic surgeon Mr Philip Ahrens, who forms part of The Shoulder Unit, about rugby related shoulder injuries and why they are so common.
Tell us about your experience of treating rugby related shoulder injuries?
I’ve been treating shoulder and elbow related injuries for over 15 years having treated recreational athletes all the way up to senior international level players.
What are the most common shoulder problems encountered when playing rugby?
The most common shoulder injury encountered in contact sports tends to be shoulder instability. This is due to the large range of movement in the joint predisposes it to injuries suffered during contact sports. Other injuries that are common include clavicular joint injures, rotator cuff tears, elbow injuries and bicep ruptures.
How do injuries differ from professional athletes to recreational players?
With professional athletes being fitter and stronger than recreational players it gives them added protection. However, due to the nature of contact being far harder and stronger it subsequently opens them up to more injuries. Elite athletes are also more likely to sustain multiple pathologies and structural lesions than recreational athletes.
Are there any methods or different techniques that could be taken to prevent an injury?
Injury prevention is paramount. In Premiership Rugby much work has been undertaken to reduce injury rates including looking at awareness of injury patterns to allow preventative measures. For example, identification of shoulder laxity and specific preventative training protocols can reduce the incidence of injury.
In which instances would surgery be recommended?
Any surgical intervention will depend entirely on the individual and their specific injury. Throughout all age groups of rugby players the most common surgical procedure tends to be stabilisation surgery for shoulder instability. Players in their 30s and above are more prone to rotator cuff injuries.
Why should a patient with a shoulder injury visit a dedicated clinic such as the Shoulder Unit?
The combined expertise of our shoulder and elbow team as well as the speed of assessment is essential for early diagnosis and treatment of athletes. The unit also has access to expert imaging and rehabilitation facilities all located within the same setting.
Will you be watching the Six Nations?
I was actually in France a few weekends ago watching the Ireland vs France match, the ending was particularly exciting! I’m looking forward to the matches this weekend and always enjoy the Calcutta Cup match, which this year is at Murrayfield.
Book an appointment
To book an appointment with Mr Philip Ahrens, contact us on Eugenia.Whelan-Cruz@hje.org.uk or call 0207 432 8282.