Objective: To examine the epidemiology of match injuries in southern hemisphere professional rugby union and assess the impact of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Experimental Law Variations.
Setting: One-season whole population prospective cohort.
Subjects: Twenty-seven teams (813 players) taking part in the 2008 Super 14 and Vodacom Cup competitions.
Outcome measures: Incidence, severity, location, type and cause of injury.
Results: The incidence in the Super 14 competition (96.3 injuries/1 000 player-match hours; 95% confidence interval (CI) 69.0 - 111.7) was significantly higher (p = 0.003) than that in the Vodacom Cup (71.2; CI 60.0 - 84.5); injury severity was significantly lower (p < 0.001) in the Super 14 (mean 13.4 days; median 5) than the Vodacom Cup (mean 21.2; median 12). There were no significant differences between the two competitions in type or location of injury: lower limb muscle/ tendon (Super 14: 27.8%; Vodacom Cup: 25.7%) and joint (non-bone)/ligament (Super 14: 18.8%; Vodacom Cup: 24.3%) were the most common injuries. Injury causation was similar for the two competitions but there were significantly fewer ruck/maul (p = 0.001) and more tackled (p = 0.010) injuries in Super 14 compared with English Premiership rugby and fewer collision (p = 0.002) and more tackling (p < 0.001) injuries compared with Rugby World Cup. In the Vodacom Cup, there were significantly more tackling (p < 0.001) injuries compared with Rugby World Cup.
Conclusion: The incidence, nature and causes of injuries in southern hemisphere professional club rugby played under IRB Experimental Law Variations were similar to those for professional club rugby in the northern hemisphere and Rugby World Cup played under the previous Laws of Rugby.