The epidemiology of shoulder injuries in English professional rugby union

Am J Sports Med. 2007 Sep;35(9):1537-43. doi: 10.1177/0363546507300691. Epub 2007 Apr 23.


Background: Shoulder injuries constitute a considerable risk to professional rugby union players; however, there is a shortage of detailed epidemiologic information about injuries in this population.

Purpose: To describe the incidence, severity, and risk factors associated with shoulder injuries in professional rugby union.

Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.

Method: Medical personnel prospectively reported time-loss injuries in professional rugby union in England, and the shoulder injuries were evaluated.

Results: The incidence of shoulder injuries was significantly lower during training (0.10/1000 player-training hours) compared with matches (8.9/1000 player-match hours). The most common match injury was acromioclavicular joint injury (32%); the most severe was shoulder dislocation and instability (mean severity, 81 days absent), which also caused the greatest proportion of absence (42%) and had the highest rate of recurrence (62%). The majority of match shoulder injuries were sustained in the tackle (65%), and outside backs were the most likely to sustain an injury from tackling (2.4/1000 player-tackles). Injuries sustained during training were significantly more severe (61 days) than were those sustained during match play (27 days), and defensive training sessions carried the highest risk of injury (0.45/1000 player-hours; mean severity, 67 days). A mean of 241 player-days per club per season were lost to shoulder injuries.

Conclusion: Results suggest the potential to reduce this injury burden by modifying training activities and implementing "pre-habilitation" strategies in an effort to minimize the risk of shoulder dislocation/instability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Body Size
  • Causality
  • Competitive Behavior
  • England / epidemiology
  • Football / injuries*
  • Football / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Physical Education and Training / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder Injuries*
  • Trauma Severity Indices