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The emerging sport of touch rugby
Post date: 22 Oct 2015

During the Rugby World Cup in England this autumn we have seen the world’s best compete at the highest level. We have seen some big hits, great tries, break-through wins like Japan’s victory over South Africa and some unfortunate injuries. Touch rugby

If you are interested in rugby, why not try the emerging sport of touch rugby in the UK? Touch is a non-contact variation of the rugby game, which integrates different ages, from junior sides (under 18) to over 50’s teams where men and women compete in the same team to create a dynamic and fun sport.

The rules of touch are explained here: http://englandtouch.org.uk/wp/index.php/about/rules/.  In short, you have six tackles/touches to get to the opponent’s try line, the ball must be passed backwards and the ball must be rolled through the legs after a tackle. There are many more rules which the FIT (Federation of International Touch) play by but if you are interested give it a try (no pun intended!). It’s a great way to keep fit and there is a lively social aspect.

I’m Gareth Marlow (far left in the photo), a team lead physiotherapist at MCH, but I have also worked for England Touch for around three years within a team of physiotherapists from the north and south of England. I have been fortunate to travel with the nine squads to Dublin, Swansea and to last year’s World Cup in Australia. In May 2015, England finished joint third in the World behind Australia and New Zealand in the Touch World Cup 2015 based in Coff’s Harbour.

During my time with the England Touch medical team, the daily routine whilst away on training camps and competitions consists of assessing and managing any new or long-standing injuries in clinics. We observe the training sessions after making sure all taping and strapping requirements are met, and we deal with a number of collision injuries and acute (fresh) injuries at pitch side. 

In training camps, the medical services work with other professionals like strength and conditioning coaches and sports scientists to help gather data on the demands of touch rugby, using equipment like GPS trackers. We also cover agility testing, sprint training, and the players have psychology education and nutritional advice, to maximise their performance.

From a personal point of view it has been very rewarding to see the evolving professional set-up of this sport. It continues to provide me with a great learning opportunity through situations which require a lot of my skills to diagnose and treat injuries..

My best advice:

  • Join in. Attend your local rugby club and play touch. Throughout the year there are leagues all over the UK and if you are good enough you could represent England in the future. Here are some links:
  • Keep fit. Touch at the highest level is a quick and tactical game. Good sport-specific training including high intensity, backwards and forward sprinting and change of direction practice must be practiced to avoid injuries. Injuries that are common include tendinopathies and muscle strains which are a result of high intensity two minute spells of play. Concussions and contact injuries are also not uncommon. Make sure a concise warm-up of around 10mins, which includes running and agility drill, is performed before you play.
  • Manage your injuries right. Check out our previous rugby blogs on injury management. The same principles apply - if you ignore injury you could risk doing more harm than good. My best advice is listen to your pain. Is it just muscle soreness from exercise or is it something more? Speak to your GP about being referred to our MCH physiotherapists who can help.
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