As The Six Nations comes to an end this month, we sat down with Specialist Consultant Spinal Surgeon Mr Bob Chatterjee who forms part of our Spine Unit, to discuss the spinal injuries often seen as a result of playing Rugby – explaining how best to avoid serious injury
There are a number of common and obvious injuries that go hand-in-hand with various sports. If you play contact sports such as rugby or wrestling for example, you’re unfortunately far more likely to suffer back problems as a result.
However, if you play sports such as tennis, golf, cricket, horse riding or even skiing, spinal related injuries can also be suffered during play. Through education and awareness it is possible for you to take precautions and protect yourself from serious harm.
Whilst all sports related injuries are serious, those related to the spine can be particularly detrimental if not investigated sufficiently.
The two most common spinal injuries seen in Rugby are:
Cervical neck stingers
Cervical neck stingers usually occur in contact or collision sports and are a common injury seen in those who play Rugby. During the incident, the athlete’s head is forced back and/or to the side and the cervical nerves can compress or over-stretch, which causes pain that radiates through one of the arms. Those who suffer from this type of injury describe this pain as an “electric shock” that lasts from anywhere between a few seconds to minutes.
How best to prevent a cervical neck stinger injury
The best way to prevent cervical stingers is through a comprehensive physical therapy programme that focuses on strengthening the cervical muscles, tendons and ligaments. In addition, using proper sport-related technique is extremely important.
A herniated disc compresses the spinal cord and causes a host of unpleasant symptoms. Athletes, to varying degrees, flex their spine during practice and competition, and when the body twists or turns while the spine is flexed a substantial load is placed on the intervertebral discs. Overloaded discs can begin to “slip” and result in an injury known as a herniated disc.
Common reasons for this type of injury are:
• Improper muscle balance
• Poor technique
Symptoms of a herniated disc include pain, radiating pain, weakness, and numbness in the spine and/or extremities. Treatment is determined upon by an orthopaedic specialist, as sometimes surgery is needed.
In any situation where an injury has occurred following any of the mentioned symptoms, it’s important to seek medical help and visit your GP or a Spine Specialist for a careful medical examination. These examinations should take place regularly until your condition has normalised. If your symptoms worsen during the first few days after the injury or continue beyond two weeks, then further medical assessment is necessary.
Your specialist may order specific tests such as X-Ray examinations, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and an electromyogram (or EMG) which is designed to evaluate nerve damage.
Occasionally, a cervical stinger can result from a disc herniation in the neck. If so, this should be confirmed on the MRI.
No matter how trivial the injury may appear, it is important that if you have obtained an injury to try and remember every detail of your symptoms, in order for the specialist to make the correct diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Make an appointment
We have a team of expert Spine Surgeons with a special expertise in the management of all spine disorders including Mr Bob Chatterjee, available for appointments.
For appointments and enquires please email [email protected] or call 020 3370 1030.
Flexible appointment times are available.