Objectives: In 2016 the Rugby Union variant of sevens will enter the official Olympic Programme. Until now, most of injury surveillance studies in Rugby Union focus on elite 15-a-side cohorts, with reported injury incidence rates reaching 96 per 1000 player-match-hours, and mean severity set at 20 days. Sparse data is available regarding rugby sevens. The aim of this study was to systematically review available data regarding the epidemiology of injuries in senior male rugby sevens.
Methods: Electronic databases (Pubmed, Google Scholar, SCOPUS, Scielo and IndexRMP) were searched in September 2015, complemented by manual searches of bibliographies and relevant "grey literature".
Results: Seven prospective cohort original articles addressing injuries in senior male rugby sevens players were included in this review. Overall injury incidence rates in elite rugby sevens tournaments ranged 101.5 to 119.8 per 1000 player-match-hours. Mean severity was greater than 34.1 days. Lower limb and joint/ligament injuries were the most frequent in elite players. The only study on amateur players revealed a lower injury incidence rate (74.7 per 1000 player-match-hours), and a higher proportion of muscle/tendon (37.5 %) injuries.
Conclusion: Injury incidence rates in rugby sevens are higher than those reported for the 15-a-side variant, at the same level of competition. Injuries are also more severe, resulting in longer absence periods. This might result from the fact that rugby sevens is played with greater speed, leading to an increase in energy transfers during tackles, more running and turning manoeuvers, that can possibly cause more severe injuries.
Keywords: Rugby sevens; athletic injuries; epidemiology; football; preventive medicine.