Objective: To establish the previous rugby experience, the knowledge and the use of injury prevention techniques by South African schoolboy rugby players.
Design: Before the first full-contact match of the 1991 rugby season, 2,330 players completed a detailed questionnaire.
Setting: High schools in the Cape Province. Three thousand three hundred and thirty players from 25 schools selected because of a record of excellence in and commitment to schoolboy rugby.
Main outcome measures: Personal data including age, height, mass and rugby experience; history and nature of previous rugby injuries; knowledge of techniques known to prevent rugby injuries; parental and personal reasons for playing rugby.
Results: The incidence and distribution of the different types of injuries previously sustained by the players were the same as those identified prospectively in the same population. A-team players were significantly heavier and taller than players in lower teams in most playing positions in most age groups. Although A-team players were more likely to participate in pre-season endurance or strength training, fewer than 40% of players overall trained adequately in the pre-season. Less than 30 minutes was allocated to the practice of tackling and falling techniques prior to the first full-contact match. Knowledge of different high-risk situations during play was generally sketchy, and only 24% of players wore gumguards all the time. More fathers (84%) than mothers (63%) encouraged their sons to play rugby.
Conclusions: The results indicate that the incidence and nature of the injuries reported retrospectively were similar to those reported in prospective studies at the same schools. The players' knowledge of techniques known to prevent rugby injuries was inadequate and too little attention was paid at the start of the rugby season to training and coaching techniques to reduce injury risk. Coaching errors may therefore have predisposed players to injury.