RUGBY LEAGUE needs to work together to discover why so many injuries are occurring and find ways of preventing them.
That’s the view of Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington in the face of his club’s massive injury crisis.
He has described the current situation as the worst of his time at the club – and other clubs are also suffering from a crippling casualty list.
Rhinos had 10 players unavailable for last Friday’s defeat at Huddersfield Giants and top-flight rivals – including Castleford Tigers and Wigan Warriors – have also been badly hit this season.
Now Hetherington says research needs to be done to discover the cause of Super League’s injury crisis, so a solution can be found.
“We have suffered more than at any other time in recent history and it appears to be the same at other clubs,” Hetherington said.
“The incidence of injuries appears to be on the rise and with the advances in medical care you have to ask why is that happening?”
Hetherington reckons administrators have to take some of the blame, for making the sport faster and more physical.
He said: “We have created a competition which has got great intensity and that in itself is resulting in more players getting injured and players playing injured and not being able to prepare for games properly.
“Also, what we have done with the salary cap and money coming into the game centrally – from television and commercial deals – is create an equality across the league.
“That creates pressure, as does the cut off after 23 rounds and introducing promotion and relegation.
“Reducing the number of teams in the play-offs creates pressure.
“Every game and result is crucial and that has created unintended consequences, which is more pressure on players and coaches.”
Hetherington said one solution would be to have fewer games and bigger squads, but that would mean more expense and reduced income.
Super League clubs now play 23 league games, plus a minimum of seven in the Super-8s or Qualifiers and at least one Challenge Cup tie. Rhinos played 36 matches in last year’s treble-winning campaign.
“You really need a 10-day turnaround for teams to be well recovered and well prepared for the next game,” he added.
“In an ideal world you would play once every two weeks, but that is not practical.
“We have created a real dilemma for ourselves.
“On the one hand, the competition is getting better and better and we have a real uncertainty of outcome which is greater than it has ever been.
“But there are consequences of that. Players are playing fatigued and playing injured and that affects performance.
“When we played St Helens the other week, five of the team did not train during the week.
“We have got a terrific bunch of players who play rugby league and we don’t want to take that for granted.”