Objectives: To undertake a detailed, large scale epidemiological study of match injuries sustained by professional rugby union players in order to define their incidence, nature, severity, and causes.
Methods: A two season prospective design was used to study match injuries associated with 546 rugby union players at 12 English Premiership clubs. Team clinicians reported all match injuries on a weekly basis and provided details of the location, diagnosis, severity, and mechanism of each injury. Match exposures for individual players were recorded on a weekly basis. Loss of time from training and match play was used as the definition of an injury.
Results: The overall incidence of injury was 91 injuries/1000 player-hours, and each injury resulted on average in 18 days lost time. Recurrences, which accounted for 18% of injuries, were significantly more severe (27 days) than new injuries (16 days). Thigh haematomas were the most common injury for forwards and backs, but anterior cruciate ligament injuries for forwards and hamstring injuries for backs caused the greatest number of days absence. Contact mechanisms accounted for 72% of injuries, but foul play was only implicated in 6% of injuries. The ruck and maul elements of the game caused most injuries to forwards, and being tackled caused most injuries to backs. The hooker and outside centre were the playing positions at greatest risk of injury.
Conclusions: On average, a club will have 18% of their players unavailable for selection as a consequence of match injuries.