Objective: To report the occurrence of uncommon but catastrophic eye and testicle injuries to rugby league and rugby union footballers in New South Wales.
Methods: A retrospective review of players who had permanent football-related injuries and who claimed financial compensation from a voluntary sports injury insurance scheme from 1978-1994.
Results: An average of 100 000 rugby league and rugby union players per year were registered with the insurance scheme in NSW. As a consequence of playing football, 15 players lost 90%-100% vision in one eye, five lost 75% vision in one eye, four lost 50% of vision in one eye and two lost 75% vision in both eyes. Eye injuries were caused by "gouging" with fingers, kicks, or blows from fists, elbows and knees; five cases appeared to be intentional. Fourteen players had testicular injuries: in 11 players this resulted in complete loss of one testicle, and in three partial loss of one or both testicles. The immediate cause of the injuries to the testicles was kicking and kneeing, usually during tackles; at least three of the injuries appeared to be intentional.
Recommendations: Rules relating to tackles, kicks and other assaults to the head or groin should be strengthened and policed. Officials, players, parents and the public should be educated to support this.