All rugby and soccer players presenting to the Accident & Emergency department during the football season 1992-1993 (a total of 871) were prospectively studied to compare the injuries sustained in the two sports. The nature and site of injury, treatment required, age, fitness, experience and position of the player, situation giving rise to injury, and medical attention at the grounds were all analysed. The results show that rugby and soccer players had the same number of injuries, and while there were some differences in the nature of the injuries, there was no difference in overall severity. Rugby flankers and soccer goalkeepers are particularly at risk. Competitive matches produce more injuries than training sessions. Experience or fitness did not appear to be a factor and 45% of rugby injuries and 15% of soccer injuries were from school matches. Law changes (e.g. the rugby scrum and the use of gum-shields) have reduced some injuries, but other areas (e.g. jumping for the ball in soccer, rucks and mauls in rugby) also warrant consideration. There was one death, but no spinal cord injuries. Medical attention at the grounds was limited. Rugby injuries, therefore, do not appear to be more numerous or severe than soccer injuries. Law changes have been of benefit but they need to be enforced and perhaps more should be considered. Medical attention at sports grounds could be improved and Registers of injuries kept by the sporting bodies would be of benefit.