Four out of five times injuries in Jugger are absolutely avoidable. While this estimation lacks any empiric basis, I want to stress the issue: Many players act like injuries are problem, which occurs to other people.
While risk perception is a complex psychological field, injury prevention in sport is not. The clue is: For a prevention to work, you have to do it upfront. As I was one of those players myself, staring cold and racing to maximum power in under a heartbeat, at some point my accumulated injuries made me think.
When do Injuries Happen?
There are collections of injuries from Jugger, were players have been reporting their injuries and the situation. According to those polls (jugger.org forum (GER), Facebook (EN)), the main sources of injuries appear to be:
- Lack of coordination and overestimation of skill in tournament situations. This is often seen as the main source of injury
- Ignorance of safety regulations – which exists for a reason after all
- Unsafe weaponry, which appears to be the smallest fraction of sources for injury
While having regulations for weapons and field behavior covered in national rule books, only safety of weapons is strictly handled. Safety regulations for field behavior on the other hand are often misunderstood and not exercised probably in training sessions or tournament games. Referees often lack the recognition of dangerous behavior or, if correctly identified, lack the execution of appropriate penalties (author’s view on German Jugger). The main block, body coordination and tournament readiness of the players, is apparently widely ignored by non top teams.
Training-Tournament Stress Gap
Let’s face it: No training of any Jugger team is as hard to your body as a two-day tournament. In most competitive sports, the training sessions are similar or even harder than the actual tournament game. But, most of the teams seem to train with a physical and mental stress level way below of one or the two real matches.
Training of body coordination, agility, and foot stability are sadly missing in most Jugger training sessions. Executing a warm-up or some movement exercises are voluntary at best, let alone exercising safe quick fights. But: Everybody agrees that Jugger is along the most challenging sports they ever encountered.
This is a characteristic I recently came to name the “Zombie Paradox” in Jugger and which will get its own article soon; some players are totally fine with “training” there duels at a pace which hardly makes their heart rate rise above 100 ticks while casually strolling about the pit. Some of those then morph to adrenaline junkies when in a live game, committing their maximum performance and get really, really susceptible to injure themselves and others as soon as they are exhausted.
Knowledge of safety regulations is easily done: Read and explain the rules until your players know, then apply them in training (under your keen and watchful eye) until they understand. On the other hand, stricter refereeing and penalization in tournament matches would make a big change (again; authors view on German Jugger). Don’t blame the rules if you’re not doing it right.
Coordination and estimation of skill is are more difficult matters, but they are closely linked together. Not knowing the personal boundaries of one’s skill often results from a lack of exercising this area consciously. Since we’re executing a lot of different movements simultaneously, both aware and unaware, we simply cannot coordinate all of them sufficiently at once. Thus, for improving coordination we have to reduce the complexity of sequential movements into easy, simple parts. The simpler parts can then be improved and automated, before bringing them back together. Or, in simple words: Train your technique separately to avoid the typical and reoccurring lack of coodination, then add it to your play style.
Also, muscle strength is a great stabilizer for all your squishy joints, vulnerable to damage. Vice versa a lack of strength impedes on all coordinated movements. Strength you can’t coordinate, on the other hand, is litte more than additional burden, so don’t start weight training if you don’t know what you are doing.
Typical injury prevention methods include, but are not limited to:
- Strengthening of ankles and feet to generally improve stability
- Use of agility ladders to improve feet coordination and footwork
- Jumping exercises for strengthening and impact absorbing coordination
- Stopping and shift of directions while sprinting
- Falling technique to spread the impact force
- Check Weapon grip of newcomers, fingers easily get snapped when sticking out
Additionally, the Quick as most endangered position should receive specific treatment:
- Attacking and Intercepting of other Quicks
- Scuttling for fast shifts in track
- Defending the goal against attackers
Please be advised, that techniques for good quicking are not common knowledge and teams have to iron out something useful or ask more experienced players. Quick training requires a lot of self-education at the moment. A bad enforcer may only suck at Jugger till he’s getting better but a bad quick can be a potential safety risk for himself and others.
Exhaustion and Game Pace
The rapid development of Jugger sport has led to a very high game speed. Since we don’t want to try to catch up, but control the game pace (both for injury prevention and tactical field advantage), intensification of your practice matches is mandatory. While tournament conditions are not easily reconstructed in training session, there are some methods to intensify your training games:
- Play to Win – Counting points in training games will create a competitive situation where players are encouraged to commit to the game. Close matches will be more fun even in training and you can introduce a symbolic and fun price for the winner.
- Don’t play half-assed – Play with commitment and take a pause when you’re exhausted. Players will learn to estimate their abilities and boundaries. An important trade for a sportsman.
- Execute tactics and technique – Transition of dueling techniques and field positioning into the actual game reduces chaos and unnecessary physical play. And thus reducing situations with risk of injuries.
Preventing injuries is all about getting body and mind of your players up to speed with the stresses and strains of modern, fast-paced tournament Jugger. Prevention is done upfront, so strengthening and physical exercise in training as well as warm-up before playing matches is essential.
Solid technique and tactics are reducing chaotic situations and thus situations with increased risk. Be aware of your quick and what he’s doing. Most injuries are about footwork. Do footwork.
Let your players learn to estimate situations of unnecessary risks in game. Many situations can be handled only by the player himself. So tell them when, why and how to prevent injuries.
- Exercises for warm-up and Injury prevention (Bit by Bit)
- Coaching Basics III – Player Health
Until the exercise material for war-ups and footwork is worked over and published, you could check on tackling technique presented by the Irish Juggers (Setanta) at the OnJugger podcast. Be aware, that full rugby tackling is not allowed in the German rule book (grabbing legs is not allowed), but can serve as basis for modified techniques.