Objective: Despite recent increases in the volume of research in professional rugby union, there is little consensus on the epidemiology of injury in adolescent players. We undertook a systematic review to determine the incidence, severity, and nature of injury in adolescent rugby union players.
Data sources: In April 2009, we performed a computerized literature search on PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (via Ovid). Population-specific and patient-specific search terms were combined in the form of MEDLINE subject headings and key words (wound$ and injur$, rugby, adolescent$). These were supplemented with related-citation searches on PubMed and bibliographic tracking of primary and review articles.
Study selection: Prospective epidemiologic studies in adolescent rugby union players.
Data synthesis: A total of 15 studies were included, and the data were analyzed descriptively. Two independent reviewers extracted key study characteristics regarding the incidence, severity, and nature of injuries and the methodologic design.
Conclusions: Wide variations existed in the injury definitions and data collection procedures. The incidence of injury necessitating medical attention varied with the definition, from 27.5 to 129.8 injuries per 1000 match hours. The incidence of time-loss injury (>7 days) ranged from 0.96 to 1.6 per 1000 playing hours and from 11.4/1000 match hours (>1 day) to 12-22/1000 match hours (missed games). The highest incidence of concussion was 3.3/1000 playing hours. No catastrophic injuries were reported. The head and neck, upper limb, and lower limb were all common sites of injury, and trends were noted toward greater time loss due to upper limb fractures or dislocations and knee ligament injuries. Increasing age, the early part of the playing season, and the tackle situation were most closely associated with injury. Future injury-surveillance studies in rugby union must follow consensus guidelines to facilitate interstudy comparisons and provide further clarification as to where injury-prevention strategies should be focused.