Founded in 1856, St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is one of the UK’s largest independent charitable hospitals. Our commitment to our patients is in the quality of our care, the range of our services and the quality of our consultants and staff.
St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is renowned for its highly specialised clinics that provide exemplary care for patients. Our expert Consultants cover the full range of specialties and are able to treat almost any medical condition.
We are extremely proud that our Lead Outpatient Physiotherapist, Kolade Awobowale, flew out to Zimbabwe recently (September 2023) to captain the Black Stallions of Nigeria rugby 7’s team in Africa Cup Sevens, as part of the 2024 Olympics Qualifiers. We caught up with him to find out more about his training regime. Read below for tips on how to avoid rugby injuries.
What does a training regime look like when you’re preparing for a tournament? Are there specific areas of the body that you will focus on more than others, or do you find certain types of exercises are more effective than others?
For me, training has been a mixture of cardio exercises, weights training and rugby-specific training sessions. I try to have 3 weights sessions, 2-3 rugby-specific sessions and 1-2 extra cardio sessions per week. This sometimes meant doubling up and having an early session before work and having another session after work to try and be in the best shape possible.
The focus of my training has been more for explosivness and power, rather than on any particular muscle groups. The role I play in the team means I need to be fast on my feet and need to have the strength to lift my teammate up in the air for kick-offs and line-outs, so I focused on lifting heavy weights for fewer reps to make sure I stay powerful.
I find that compound exercises (which use more than one muscle group at a time) are the most effective: push presses, Romanian deadlifts, squats, bench press etc. These exercises done consistently help build an effective training program to gain strength and decrease the chances of injury.
What do you do to help prevent injuries?
I do a few things to reduce injury risk when I’m on the pitch. However rugby is a contact sport so although it is impossible to “prevent” injury, there are many ways to decrease injury risk:
Warming Up – whether in the gym or before a track/field session a thorough warm-up is something I make sure I do. a) Gym – a good warm-up should consist of mobility stretches/activation for the joints/muscles being used in the session and 2-3 sets of lighter weights before working up to your main working weights. For example, before bench pressing I will use resistance bands to do shoulder external rotation exercises followed by 2-3 sets of lighter weights (60-100kg) before starting my first set (120kg+). b) Field – a good warm-up will consist of static and dynamic stretches and a pulse-raising activity before building up into more intense sprints/contact drills.
Balanced workouts – One thing a lot of us are guilty of is not having balancing workouts and training what we enjoy more often, leading to imbalances and increased risk of injury. If you’re not sure about whether your workout routine is properly balanced it may be worth booking a session with a physiotherapist to discuss your routine. This coupled with a history of previous injuries will allow your therapist to design a program for you that will work on any weaknesses and decrease your chance of injury.
Sprains and strains, dislocated shoulders, overuse injuries and slipped discs are all common injuries among rugby players. Have you ever sustained one/more of these injuries? If so, how did you get back to peak fitness again?
Unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share of injuries so far in my career! I’ve dislocated my shoulder, ruptured my AC joint (shoulder), pulled my hamstrings (multiple times) and even sprained my ankle a few times. Patience is key when coming back from injury. Rushing returning to sport often leads to re-injury and can delay getting back onto the pitch even longer.
Seeking advice and guidance from a qualified professional with the right knowledge is also very important for getting back to peak fitness. The right exercises done consistently over a period of time will also be more beneficial than trying too much too soon and putting unnecessary strain on the injured structures.
Your profile says you are keen to use technology and data to quantify/track patient progression and drive decision-making. How do apply this to your own training (and rehabilitation when needed)?
I’ve had extensive experience using force quantification devices such as force plates and handheld dynamometers which have helped highlight certain imbalances in my strength. I’ve been able to use this data to focus on certain body parts and movements through my training block. For example, when doing my assessment I was made aware that my knee flexion (hamstring) strength was 50% of my knee extension (quads) strength and research says that to decrease the risk of injury, hamstring strength needs to be 60%+ of quad strength. So I was able to tailor my leg training to focus on hamstring strength to prevent the risk of tearing.
I think using data in this way is the future of physiotherapy and being able to quantify exact numbers when it comes to strength will mean more effective decision-making and faster recovery.
Your team’s goal is to become one of Africa’s top five teams – how will you go about making this a reality?
Well, currently we are ranked 8th in Africa. We’ve had a strong year so far – we started 2023 ranked 24th and have been able to climb the ranks to 8th! For us to break into the top 5 we need consistent and adequate funding from the Nigerian Rugby Football Federation, so we have more opportunities to train together and play competitions. The team is currently made up of Nigeria based players, UK based players and US based players. As a squad, we’ve had two training camps and two competitions this year after a few years of nothing, and we’ve been able to jump 16 places in the ranking already! More competitions will help build our team chemistry and even serve to promote the team to other Nigerians that didn’t know there were opportunities to represent the National Team. I’m confident that within the next two years, with more camps and competitions, we will be able to make Top 5 and maybe even secure 2026 Commonwealth Games qualification!
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