In The Media > The bigger they are ... the harder it is for them to recover

13 Apr 2010


The evolution of the rugby league player has created violent collisions up to 12 per cent harder than what they were just 15 years ago.
With more than $12 million of rugby league talent sidelined through injury The Daily Telegraph can reveal the NRL player is on average 5.22kg heavier than he was in 1995.
The result is a dramatic increase in force, creating “G-force” impact akin to a car crash.
Greg Inglis typifies the modern-day centre, who at 104kg and 195cm monsters one of the trademark backs of the 1990s, Ryan Girdler, who measured in at 93kg and 182cm.
Greg Inglis Ryan Girdler
Height: 195cm Height: 182cm
Weight: 104kg Weight: 93kg
Debut: 2005 - Melbourne Debut: 1991 - Illawarra
“The impact forces are increasing with the size of the player,” said NSW Institute of Sport principal scientist Ken Graham.
“Assuming they are running as fast but are heavier, whatever their increase in body weight is going to be the increase in collision force. And it is doubled if it is coming from both directions.”
Running at up to 32km/h, players with an average of 97.5kg are slamming together with bone-breaking effect.
“Bones break when you get a 110kg athlete running at between 28km/h to 32km/h,” said one NRL coach. “They are all impact injuries.”
Faster, stronger and heavier than their 1995 counterparts who weighed an average of 92.28kg, Bulldogs physiotherapist Tony Ayoub has no doubt the size of the 2010 rugby league player has contributed to the 84 first-grade players who are currently out with injury.
“Without doubt they are bigger.” Ayoub said.
“You just have to look at the halfbacks. In the ‘80s and ‘90s they weighed 70-odd kilograms and they are in the 90s. And the heavier they are the bigger the impacts, they are just enormous. That is a factor as to why we have so many players injured at the moment. The impact has a big bearing on what is going on. It is just taking its toll.”
One leading NRL club physiologist, who asked to remain anonymous, said the high-impact collisions now continued unabated throughout the match.
“There used to be collision in the first 20 minutes of matches but then it petered out,” he said.
“Now those collisions are happening in the 60th and 70th minute.
“The average collision is six to seven ‘G’ (force of gravity). The bigger ones are 10 to 11.
“In the 1970s, guys like Bruce Gibbs (former Wests prop) were running around with probably 20 per cent body fat. Nowadays, the players have 10 to 12 per cent.”
Former Dragons and Wallaby doctor Martin Rafferty said the players were not merely getting bigger, but faster, in what is proving to be an explosive cocktail of force.
“It’s pretty logical; if your mass increases, then the force experience is going to be greater and there are going to be more injuries,” Rafferty said. “The increased weight is muscle mass so the players are more powerful and their acceleration is also greater.
“Pace is just as important as the mass. You could tell the forces experienced in the Panthers-Roosters game are a lot greater than what the game’s seen before.”

James Phelps and Dean Ritchie - Additional reporting Tyson Otto