University of Bath

Making rugby safer

Over 9 million rugby players around the world are safer as a result of two projects focused on a new scrum engagement technique and an injury prevention exercise programme.

The three-year Biomechanics of the Rugby Scrum project looked at the forces experienced by front row forwards. Whilst not common, scrum-related injuries made up around 40% of the catastrophic injuries for players.

The focus was to reduce that, but to do so with minimal effect on the scrum’s competitive nature.

Researchers developed a pre-binding scrum technique, known as ‘crouch, bind, set’, whereby front row players bind to the opposition before pushing - and demonstrated a 25% reduction in the forces of engagement. It was rolled out by World Rugby in 2013 at all levels of the game from youth rugby to international and its long-term impact is hugely significant.

The team also led the work to reduce injuries for both schools and adult community rugby. They devised new 20-minute injury prevention exercise programmes with the Rugby Football Union for players to perform all season, both in training and before matches.

The Activate Programme demonstrated dramatic results. This includes reducing concussion injuries by up to 60% and overall injuries by over 70% in those that completed the exercise programme three times per week.

This has since been implemented across clubs and schools and is being rolled out globally by World Rugby.


Former England Rugby Captain, current England Rugby Forwards Coach, University of Bath alumni and University Hall of Famer Steve Borthwick said:

“Advances to improve player safety in rugby owe much to the research that takes place in UK universities, none more so than that at the University of Bath.

“In partnership with England Rugby and World Rugby, the impact of their work to improve player safety both in relation to the scrum and for youth and community rugby, will be felt by players from around the world for years to come.”


Further reading