The Incidence of Injury in Amateur Male Rugby Union: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Sports Med. 2018 Apr;48(4):837-848. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0838-4.


Background: Rugby union is a physically demanding, full-contact team sport that has gained worldwide popularity. The incidence of injury in rugby union has been widely reported in the literature. While comprehensive injury surveillance and prevention programmes have been implemented within the professional game, there is a need for similar strategies in the amateur game. Despite recent increases in the volume of research in rugby, there is little consensus regarding the true incidence rate of match and training injuries in senior amateur male rugby union players.

Objective: The aim of the current review was to systematically review the available evidence on the epidemiology of time-loss injuries in senior amateur male rugby union players and to subsequently conduct a meta-analysis of the findings.

Methods: A comprehensive search of the PubMed, Scopus, SportDiscus and Google Scholar electronic databases was performed using the following keywords; ('rugby' OR 'rugby union') AND ('amateur' OR 'community') AND ('injur*' OR 'pain*'). Six articles regarding the incidence of injury in senior amateur male rugby union players, in both matches and training, were retrieved and included in the meta-analysis to determine the overall incidence rate of match injury, with descriptive analyses also provided for other reported variables.

Results: The overall incidence rate of match injuries within senior amateur rugby union players was 46.8/1000 player hours [95% confidence interval (CI) 34.4-59.2]. Contact events accounted for the majority of injuries, with the tackler more at risk than the player being tackled, and with respective incidence rates of 15.9/1000 player hours (95% CI 12.4-19.5) and 12.2/1000 player hours (95% CI 9.3-15.1).

Conclusion: This meta-analysis found that the incidence rate of injury in amateur rugby union players was lower than that in professional players, but higher than the incidences reported in adolescent and youth rugby players. By understanding the true incidence and nature of injuries in rugby, injury prevention strategies can best be implemented. Future prevention strategies may best be aimed towards the tackle area, specifically to the tackler, in order to minimize injury risk.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Young Adult