The use of padding in rugby union. An overview

Sports Med. 1998 May;25(5):329-32. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199825050-00004.


In any contact sport where impact and collision are an accepted feature, the use of various forms of external padding has become more common. Rugby union players experience a combination of characteristic extrinsic forces through the acts of tackling and scrummaging. The laws which are part of the international regulation of rugby union only permit the wearing of certain, clearly delineated forms of padding. Only then is such padding permitted on medical recommendation, provided that this padding is attached to the body or sewn into the jersey. This article discusses the padding of the shoulders, shins and thighs of rugby union players and highlights the need to address these issues with respect to the increasing number of women who are now playing this sport, particularly in the Southern hemisphere. There is little evidence to show that shoulder pads decrease the incidence of severe shoulder injuries. However, well-fitting shoulder pads constructed of materials that effectively disperse the force of impact appear to reduce the effect of direct contact and reduce the potential for soft tissue damage. Shin guards that are made of light, soft, compliant materials are effective in reducing impact to the shin and thereby reduce the risk of bruising injuries which are common to the pretibial region. Similarly, thigh pads are considered to be able to modify the effects of direct contact forces to the anterior thigh where deep contusional injuries with the potential for myositis ossificans are well reported. Informed advice for women rugby players regarding the use of specific padding is unavailable at present. Current information is anecdotal and not confirmed by statistical studies or well-conducted research. In these circumstances, women rugby players should observe the same recommendations that apply to their male counterparts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Football* / injuries
  • Humans
  • Leg Injuries / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Protective Clothing*
  • Shoulder Injuries