The incidence and nature of injuries occurring in 8 adult club rugby teams was followed prospectively during the 1988 rugby season. The findings were compared with those from two similar studies in schoolboy rugby players. A total of 114 injuries were sustained by 78 players; 85% of injuries occurred during matches. Injury was most prevalent during the first 8 weeks of the season and again after the mid-season break. Hookers (19%), wings (15%), fullbacks (11%) and centres (10%) were the players most often injured. Injury occurred most commonly when the player was tackled (26%), during open play (21%) and during the loose scrum (17%). Muscles (33%) and ligaments (32%) were the anatomical structures most often injured. Injury caused 35% of injured players to miss more than 35 days of rugby. Thirteen per cent of injured players did not play again for the rest of the season and only 14% of injured players returned to rugby after 7 days or less. Prolonged disability was associated with ligament injuries (57%), dislocations (17%) and fractures (10%).