The incidence of injury among male and female intercollegiate rugby players

Sports Health. 2013 Jul;5(4):327-33. doi: 10.1177/1941738113487165.


Background: The National Collegiate Athletic Association classifies women's rugby as an emerging sport. Few studies have examined the injury rates in women's collegiate rugby or compared injury rates between sexes.

Hypothesis: Injury rates will differ between female and male intercollegiate club rugby players.

Study design: Descriptive epidemiological study.

Methods: Five years of injury data were collected from the men's and women's rugby teams at a US service academy using the institution's injury surveillance system. The primary outcome of interest was the incidence rate of injury during the study period per 10,000 athlete exposures. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) were calculated using a Poisson distribution to compare the rates by sex.

Results: During the study period, the overall incidence rate for injury was 30% higher (IRR = 1.30, 95% CI: 1.09, 1.54) among men when compared with women; however, the distribution of injuries varied by sex. The incidence rate for ACL injury among women was 5.3 times (IRR = 5.32, 95% CI: 1.33, 30.53) higher compared with that among men. Men were 2.5 times (IRR = 2.54, 95% CI: 1.03, 7.52) more likely to sustain a fracture. The rate of acromioclavicular joint injury was 2.2 times (IRR = 2.19, 95% CI: 1.03, 5.19) higher among men when compared with women. Men were 6.6 times (IRR = 6.55, 95% CI: 2.65, 20.91) more likely to have an open wound than women.

Conclusion: There are differences in injury rates and patterns between female and male American rugby players.

Clinical relevance: The differences in injury patterns may reflect distinct playing styles, which could be the result of the American football background common among many of the male players.

Keywords: epidemiology; injury incidence; rugby; sex differences.