Match and training injuries in rugby league: a review of published studies

Sports Med. 2010 Feb 1;40(2):163-78. doi: 10.2165/11319740-000000000-00000.


Rugby league is an international collision sport played by junior, amateur, semiprofessional and professional players. The game requires participants to be involved in physically demanding activities such as running, tackling, passing and sprinting, and musculoskeletal injuries are common. A review of injuries in junior and senior rugby league players published in Sports Medicine in 2004 reported that injuries to the head and neck and muscular injuries were common in senior rugby league players, while fractures and injuries to the knee were common in junior players. This current review updates the descriptive data on rugby league epidemiology and adds information for semiprofessional, amateur and junior levels of participation in both match and training environments using studies identified through searches of PubMed, CINHAL, Ovid, MEDLINE, SCOPUS and SportDiscus databases. This review also discusses the issues surrounding the definitions of injury exposure, injury rate, injury severity and classification of injury site and type for rugby league injuries. Studies on the incidence of injuries in rugby league have suffered from inconsistencies in the injury definitions utilized. Some studies on rugby league injuries have utilized a criterion of a missed matchas an injury definition, total injury incidences or a combination of both time-loss and non-time-loss injuries, while other studies have incorporated a medical treatment injury definition. Efforts to establish a standard definition for rugby league injuries have been difficult, especially as some researchers were not in favour of a definition that was all-encompassing and enabled non-time-loss injuries to be recorded. A definition of rugby league injury has been suggested based on agreement by a group of international researchers. The majority of injuries occur in the match environment, with rates typically increasing as the playing level increases. However, professional level injury rates were reportedly less than semiprofessional participation. Only a few studies have reported training injuries in rugby league, where injury rates were reported to be less than match injuries. Approximately 16-30% of all rugby league injuries have been reported as severe, which places demands upon other team members and, if the player returns to playing too early, places them at an increased risk of further injuries. Early research in rugby league identified that ligament and joint injuries were the common injuries, occurring primarily to the knee. More recently, studies have shown a change in anatomical injury sites at all levels of participation. Although the lower limb was the frequent injury region reported previously, the shoulder has now been reported to be the most common injury site. Changes in injury site and type could be used to prompt further research and development of injury reduction programmes to readdress the issue of injuries that occur as a result of participation in rugby league activities. Further research is warranted at all participation levels of rugby league in both the match and training environments to confirm the strongest risk factors for injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Muscles / injuries
  • Neck Injuries / epidemiology
  • Seasons
  • Teaching*