Padded Clothing in Rugby Union

In a typical game of Rugby Union, two teams of 15 players each vie for the control of the ball. Achieving victory means that players have to run, tackle, and slide faster than their opponents. To protect themselves from injuries during such intense plays, Rugby Union players often wear padded clothing; padded clothing, “commercially known as shoulder padding,” helps to dissipate impact energy.

World Rugby – the governing body of Rugby Union – outlines performance specifications for padded clothing to ensure that it only protects against superficial injuries such as lacerations and abrasions. In a recent study,  Angus C. Hughes and colleagues investigated how to more accurately assess the effectiveness of padded clothing. 

The researchers developed a new test procedure to assess the ability of padded clothing to protect against stud-induced injury. First, synthetic skin and soft tissue surrogate was utilized to model human anatomy. In addition, to simulate realistic stud raking conditions, a rig “initially developed to assess shoe–surface interactions” was modified to include a rugby stud attachment. 

Without padded clothing, the stud-induced impact caused abrasion and laceration injuries to the synthetic tissue surrogates. The incorporation of padded clothing resulted in no sign of stud-induced injury, indicating that padded clothing can prevent lacerations and abrasions. Overall, the authors conclude that “the developed testing protocols could be used to assess the safety of any sports stud designs in relation to skin injury as well as the effectiveness of various protective clothing products across the sports industry.”

Images were obtained from the mentioned paper authored by Angus C. Hughes and colleagues (article is open access and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)