The incidence and nature of injuries in South African rugby players in the rugby Super 12 competition

S Afr Med J. 2006 Dec;96(12):1260-5.


Background: There are sparse scientific data concerning the aetiology and incidence of injuries in the Super 12 rugby competition. Aim. The aim of the study was to document the incidence, nature and risk factors associated with injuries during a Super 12 rugby competition.

Methods: Injuries, defined as injuries preventing playing or training, or requiring medical treatment, were recorded in a cohort of 75 South African Super 12 players over one season. Injury severity was graded according to sessions missed: minor (1 - 3 missed), intermediate (4 - 9) and severe (> 9).

Results: During the tournament, a total of 740 player game hours and 4 900 player training hours were recorded. The overall incidence of injuries was 55.4 injuries/1,000 player game hours, and 4.3 injuries/1,000 player training hours. The most common injury types were: ligament sprains (25.8%), musculotendinous strains/tears (24.2%). The most common injured sites were: pelvis, hip (19.3%), head and knee (12.9% each). The tackle caused 40.3%, and rucks and mauls 11.3% of injuries. Injuries sustained during training accounted for 34%, and chronic overuse injuries 9.7% of injuries.

Conclusions: There is a high injury rate during a Super 12 rugby competition. However, the majority of injuries were minor injuries. The most dangerous phase of play was the tackle. Training in tackling and rucking techniques, and rule enforcement are therefore recommended to reduce risk of injury. Injuries tended to occur late in games and early in the season, suggesting lack of physical conditioning and fatigue as possible causes of injury.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / classification*
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Risk Factors
  • South Africa / epidemiology