Rugby league is a popular participation sport, but there have been concerns raised regarding the possible high number of severe neck, back and spine injuries. Therefore an epidemiological overview of rugby league neck, back and spine injuries and associated costs of these injuries was undertaken in one country over nine years. The New Zealand national Accident Compensation Corporation data for moderate to serious injury entitlement claims (MSC) over nine years were analysed for the number, type and cost of neck, back and spine rugby league injuries resulting in medical treatment. There were 206 (3%) neck, back and spine MSC claims totalling NZD$1,585,927 (4%) of the total injury entitlement costs for rugby league over the nine-year period. The rate of MSC neck, back and spine rugby league injuries was 26 per 1000 total rugby league claims. Although the rate of neck, back and spine injuries varied over the nine years from 22 to 40 per 1000 injury claims, there was a significant increase over the duration of the study in the number of neck, back and spine MSC claims (χ2=849, df=8, p<0.001), and the cost per MSC injury claim (χ2=19,054, df=8, p<0.001). The frequency, severity and first 12 months cost of neck, back and spine injuries in rugby league is an issue that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately the ACC data base does not provide information on how or why the injuries occurred. A prospective injury epidemiology study needs to be conducted that will allow collection of information surrounding the mechanisms of injury and possible causative risk factors such as tackling technique. In the meantime it is suggested that coaches should ensure tackling technique is correctly taught to all rugby league players to reduce the risk of neck, back and spine injury. Team medical personnel should be trained in dealing with neck and spine injuries as well as head related injuries, and emergency procedures in dealing with players with a suspected neck or back injury should be practiced at clubs.
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