Can You Play Rugby When Sore?

Have you just spent the last 15 minutes trying to roll out of bed? Is the thought of attempting to touch your toes frightening? Rugby is a great game but it can take a heavy toll on your body. It is time to figure how to avoid future soreness and whether or not you can still play rugby in your diminished state.

Can you train Rugby when sore? 

If you have minor soreness you can play rugby at your normal intensity. If you have medium levels of soreness you can train BJJ but decrease training intensity and avoid contact training. If you are extremely sore do not play rugby, your body needs to recover otherwise you risk injury.

Are You Overtraining Rugby?

If you are sore every time you step off the rugby field and you have been playing rugby for more than 4 months you are overtraining. It is common to deal with soreness if you are a new player as you due to heavy contact but after a few months your body adapts. If the soreness continues you are overtraining.

It takes time for your body to adapt to tackling, being tackled, cleaning out, mauling and crummaging. Luckily, your body is highly adaptive and will soon figure it out it needs to change to satiate your desire to run around the rugby pitch. This adaptation typically occurs within a few months.

If you are still battling painful soreness after training rugby for more than 3 to 4 months then you need to decrease your training volume and intensity. As your body is not recovering from your current training regime. If you keep up with your current training schedule you run the risk of injuring yourself. It is recommended you reduce or pause your rugby training now instead of suffering an injury and being forced to watch from the sidelines.

Why Do I Get Sore After Rugby?

Rugby is an intense sport with high impact collisions. If you are a new player your body will not be accustomed to the heavy contact. Playing rugby causes microscopic damage to your muscles, which exhibits itself as muscle soreness and or stiffness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

It is a commonly believed myth that DOMS is caused by lactic acid however lactic acid is not involved in DOMS.

How To Prevent Soreness From Rugby?

To prevent soreness from Rugby you should take cold showers (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 3-5 minutes), eat a healthy high protein diet consisting of fish, chicken, red meat, fruit and vegetables, sleep for at least 8 hours a day and perform dynamic and static stretches. 

Cold Showers

Scientific studies have failed to find a positive relationship between cold water immersion and reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Glasgow et al. (2014) found altering the treatment duration, water temperature or dosage of post exercise water immersion had minimal effect on outcomes relating to DOMS.

Sellwood et al. (2007) found no significant differences were observed between groups with regard to changes in most pain parameters, tenderness, isometric strength, swelling, hop‐for‐distance or serum CK over time. The protocol of ice‐water immersion used in this study was ineffectual in minimizing markers of DOMS in untrained individuals.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence I personally find cold showers to reduce muscle soreness and increase flexibility and give a greater range of pain free mobility. Even if it is a placebo, cold showers have worked for me. I recommend the Wim Hoff cold water immersion method, perform 5 rounds of 30 seconds alternating between hot and cold water.

Eat A Healthy High Protein Diet

Diet is intimately linked to how well you recover from your rugby training. A poor diet will prolong your muscle soreness. To maximize your recovery and reduce your soreness from rugby you need to eat high protein and cram healthy foods down your gob.

You should aim to slam at least 1 gram of protein for every 1 pound of your body weight. For example if you weigh 180 pounds you should be hitting 180 grams of protein per day. Your diet should consist of red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, vegetables, rice, pasta and fruit. You stick with that diet and get in the right amount of protein you won’t be feeling sore for very long.

Sleep For At Least 8 Hours

Sleep is even more powerful than diet in helping you recover from a hard fought rugby match or a brutal contact filled training session. When you are experiencing muscle soreness from rugby it is a warning sign from your body that you need some extra rest and sleep. 

Getting 8 hours of undisturbed peaceful sleep on a regular basis will rapidly decrease the amount of soreness you experience from rugby.

Studies have found that for every two hours an athlete is awake they require at least one hour of sleep to recover. Therefore if you are awake for 16 hours a day you better be getting 8 hours of sleep otherwise your body is not recovering properly and your soreness is going to linger.

Stretch Daily

Stretching can help you increase your mobility while also helping reduce your soreness.

Try These 3 Stretches To Reduce Your Soreness And Stiffness From Rugby

1) Butterfly Stretch

Great for reducing stiffness in your groin and hips. Sit on the ground, place your soles of your feet together so they are touching. Then place your elbows on your knees and attempt to push your knees to the ground. You should feel a strong stretch in your groin and your hips should open up.

2) Lying Half Spinal Twist

Great for reducing stiffness in your spine. Lie on your back with your arms outstretched to your sides. Then lift one of your legs hold it across your body. Take one of your arms and attempt to touch your knee of your lifted leg to the ground. Keep your shoulders on the mat, and turn your head away from your leg. Repeat this for both legs, for 10 to 20 seconds.

3) Neck and Torso Stretch

Great for reducing stiffness in your neck and back. Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Lift your feet off the floor and attempt to touch your chest with your knees. If you are extra flexible you touch the balls of your feet behind your head. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to a minute before returning your legs to the ground.

Will I Always Be Sore After Rugby?

You will not always be sore after rugby. Your body will adapt to the stress of rugby. Within 2 to 4 months of training your body will harden and your muscles will become accustomed to the heavy contact. It won’t be long before you experience little to no soreness from a tough rugby game.

However, if you significantly increase the volume or intensity of your rugby training such as playing an extra game a week or adding another contact session to your training regime you will feel soreness again.

This is why it is a good idea to slowly increase your training volume and intensity over time as this allows your body to adapt more easily reducing your likelihood of experiencing high amounts of soreness.

How To Train Rugby When I Am Sore?

The best way to train rugby when you are sore is to focus on skill development and avoid contact and conditioning drills. When everything hurts the last thing you want to be doing is full contact cleaning out drills or practicing your ability to make open field tackles. You should also avoid hard conditioning such as sprints, heavy weightlifting sessions or intense plyometric regimes.

Instead you should take it easy and work on developing your skills such as passing, kicking, lineout throwing, line running ect. You should focus on low intensity contactless drills that will still improve your rugby playing ability.

If you are extremely sore from rugby then it may be best to just take the day off from training. I know you don’t want to but instead of having a terrible rugby training session by trying to play through soreness which may linger for days, take the day off and come back 100% to the next session.


If you are only experiencing medium to small amounts of soreness then you can still attend rugby training. If you are experiencing a large amount of soreness then consider missing your next rugby session to allow your body to recuperate. If you are addicted to rugby and need to train even while sore then avoid contact and intense conditioning workouts, just focus on skill drills. 

If you want to reduce your soreness and help your body recover then you should should take cold showers (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 3-5 minutes), eat a healthy high protein diet consisting of fish, chicken, red meat, fruit and vegetables, sleep for at least 8 hours a day and regularly stretch.

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