Rugby Union on-field position and its relationship to shoulder injury leading to anterior reconstruction for instability

J Sci Med Sport. 2011 Mar;14(2):111-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2010.08.005.


Due to the unique demands of each position on the Rugby Union field, the likelihood of an athlete sustaining a dislocation of their shoulder joint that requires surgical reconstruction may be affected by their position on the field. 166 patients with 184 involved shoulders requiring anterior reconstruction following an on-field Rugby Union injury between January 1996 and September 2008 were analysed. The mean age at time of injury was 18 years with the mean age at time of surgery being 20 years. The most prevalent mechanism of injury was a tackle in 66.3% of players. Players were more likely to suffer injury to their non-dominant shoulder than their dominant side (McNemar's Test, p<0.001). Statistical analysis using chi-squared test of goodness of fit showed there was not a uniform risk of injury for all player positions. Positions with significantly different risk of injury were five-eighth (increased risk) and wing (reduced risk). Although we observed an increased risk in flankers and fullbacks, and a lower risk in second row, these results did not reach statistical significance after application of the Bonferroni correction. This information can be utilized by team staff to assist in pre-season conditioning as well as the development of improved muscle co-ordination programmes for the non-dominant shoulder, and planning a graduated return to sport by the player recovering from surgical reconstruction of the shoulder for instability.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / rehabilitation*
  • Joint Instability / surgery
  • Male
  • Orthopedic Procedures / rehabilitation
  • Posture*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder / surgery
  • Shoulder Injuries*
  • Young Adult