Training volume and soft tissue injury in professional and non-professional rugby union players: a systematic review

Br J Sports Med. 2017 Jul;51(13):1012-1020. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095926. Epub 2016 Oct 8.


Aim: To investigate the relationship between training volume and soft tissue injury incidence, and characterise soft tissue injury in rugby union players.

Design: A systematic search of electronic databases was performed. The search strategy combined terms covering: training volume and injury, and rugby union, and players of all levels.

Data sources: Medline, SPORTDiscus, Web of Science, Embase, PubMed.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: Studies were included if they reported: male rugby union players, a clear definition of a rugby union injury, the amount of training volume undertaken by participants, and epidemiological data for soft-tissue injuries including the number or incidence.

Results: 15 studies were eligible for inclusion. Overall match and training injury incidence ranged from 3.3 to 218.0 injuries/1000 player match hours and 0.1-6.1 injuries/1000 player training hours, respectively. Muscle and tendon as well as joint (non-bone) and ligament injuries were the most frequently occurring injuries. The lower limb was the most prevalent injury location. Injury incidence was higher in professional rugby union players than non-professional players. Contact events were responsible for the greatest injury incidence. For non-contact mechanisms, running was responsible for the highest injury incidence. Inconsistent injury definitions hindered reliable comparison of injury data. The lack of reporting training volumes in hours per player per week limited the ability to investigate associations between training volume and injury incidence.

Conclusions: A higher level of play may result in higher match injury incidence. Muscle and tendon injuries were the most common type of soft tissue injury, while the lower limb was the most common location of injury in rugby union players, and running was responsible for the highest injury incidence during non-contact events.

Keywords: Contact sports; Football; Muscle injury; Sporting injuries; Training load.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Ligaments / injuries
  • Lower Extremity / injuries
  • Male
  • Muscles / injuries
  • Physical Conditioning, Human
  • Running
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Tendon Injuries / epidemiology
  • Young Adult