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In the news | March 7, 2014

Rugby is, by its very nature, a sport with a significant injury toll. Many of these injuries can be serious, such as the bulging disc in the neck of a front row forward which has forced the England head coach to rethink his line-up. Rugby is considered to be a dangerous sport, but is it as bad in reality?

A recent meta-analysis of injuries in senior men’s professional rugby union from the University of Bath found that overall injury incidence in senior men’s professional rugby union matches was 81 per 1000 player hours. In other words, match-day medics can expect at least 3 time-loss injuries every match.  This is substantially higher than injury rates in community rugby (17 per 1,000 player hours), women’s elite rugby (36 and 47 per 1,000 player hours) and youth elite academy rugby (47 per 1,000 player hours) (There may be many reasons for these differences not least of which is the bigger size and strength of professional players, but also potentially better injury reporting mechanisms.) Despite these figures, injury rates in professional Rugby Union are similar to other collision sports, for example international ice hockey (79 injuries per 1,000 player hours) and in semi-professional Rugby League (68 per 1,000 player hours). The incidence of injuries in training is similar to both football and American football. The RFU has taken the lead in collecting, monitoring and analysing all rugby injuries to enable a full understanding of the incidence and of the causes of injuries in professional Rugby Union. Without this data, injury prevention policies would be guesswork and haphazard at best.

To make it as a successful player in the modern professional era, elite-level rugby players require a range of physical attributes including strength, power, speed, agility and endurance. Players at other levels require these same attributes, although to lesser degrees. Getting the balance of these factors right is the key: a weaker player will be exposed when playing rugby against a bigger, faster, stronger or fitter team and will be more likely to sustain an injury either through collisions in tackles and scrums or simply as a result of fatigue. Maintaining optimal fitness and strength will create a more resilient player less susceptible to injury. Interestingly, studies suggest that injury rates decrease over the course of the season, so if you’ve made it this far your odds of continuing to the end of the season injury-free are already looking better!

ISEH Newsletter February 2014 (www.iseh.co.uk)

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