Purpose: To describe the level of usage of protective devices and equipment in a cohort of New Zealand rugby players.
Methods: Male and female players (N = 327) from a range of competitive grades were followed over the course of the season. Participants were interviewed weekly about their participation in rugby and use of protective equipment. The main outcome measure was percentage of all player-weeks of follow-up for which each equipment item was used.
Results: Mouthguards, the most commonly used equipment item, were worn for 64.9% of player-weeks. Mouthguard usage ranged from 55.0% of player-weeks in Schoolgirls grade to 72.9% of player-weeks in Senior A competition. The next most common item was taping of body joints (23.7% of player-weeks). The sites most commonly taped were the ankle, knee, and hand. Overall usage for the other protective equipment items studied (shin guards, padded headgear, head tape, support sleeves, and grease) was below 15%. In general, forwards had higher usage of protective equipment than backs, and male players had higher usage than female players. The most common self-reported reasons for using protective equipment were to prevent injury and because of a past injury. Players exhibited considerable week-to-week variation in their usage of protective equipment.
Conclusions: In general, equipment usage was highest in those at greatest risk of injury, namely, forwards, male players, and the senior grades. The high voluntary use of mouthguards is encouraging and indicative of a base of player support for their role in this sport.