Rugby injuries from the perspective of a Sports Chiropractor



A useful body of evidence is continuing to grow regarding injuries within the sport of rugby union. It is important from my role as a Sports Chiropractor in Hamilton that I keep up to date with recent research such as the stuff discussed in this series to make sure best practice is observed with my clinical recommendations. There is some consensus as to the epidemiology of injuries across all populations of players, although due to the varied approaches observed in the current literature, there can be more uniformity in study design and injury surveillance to achieve more cohesion in comparison between future studies. Below are a few areas that can be improved in future studies to help produce more cohesive injury data.

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Injury Definition

During the review of the literature in this series, wide variations existed with regard to injury definitions and data collection procedures. Incidence of injury resulting in medical attention varied with definition, from 27.5 to 129.8 injuries per 1000 match hours. Injury definition needs to be more clear as to whether an injury has required the seeking of medical attention or whether the injury requires actual time lost. The use of these definitions interchangeably decreases the accuracy of reporting and therefore dilutes the power of injury based studies, therefore limiting its reliability and clinical interest (Bleakley, Tully et al. 2011).

Injury surveillance

With no routine injury surveillance for rugby union underway in most rugby playing countries, using national injury surveillance databases such as that of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) in New Zealand have been suggested as a more effective and efficient way of acquiring surveillance data (Simpson, Chalmers et al. 1999).

Injury cost

In 1995, ACC spent $22 million on rugby related injuries alone (Simpson, Chalmers et al. 1999). This does not include the cost to individuals, clubs (amateur and professional) and governing organisations. In the 2010-2011 English Premiership Club competition there was an increase of 0.3 injuries per club per match or 110 more injuries over the course of the season when compared to the previous season (England Rugby Premiership Injury and Training Audit Steering group 2012). For professional clubs relying on players to take the field, injuries are a costly inconvenience.

Further research

There is a lack of research looking at other less obvious variables of the game. Considering the majority of injuries in rugby union result from contact phases of play, Fuller et al found that relatively few tacklers were penalised by referees for collision tackles (tackles with no arms) and tackles above the line of the shoulder (Fuller, Ashton et al. 2010). Little information exists around the frequency of the various types of contact events within a game of rugby union or the likelihood that a particular type of contact event will result in injury (Fuller, Brooks et al. 2007).

Different forms of the game of rugby union may warrant individual research focus. There is a difference in risk between the Sevens rugby and the 15 a side game. The risk of injury from international Rugby Sevens was higher than that of international 15-a-side rugby, with severity of injury being significantly higher (Fuller, Taylor et al. 2010).

In conclusion, nobody is going to stop playing the game of rugby because of the potential risk of injury however knowing a little bit about the nature of injury and when its most likely to occur during a match or training can help players, coaches and other interested parties take active steps to minimizing these risks. And if injury does occur, come down to Sport & Spine in Hamilton to visit your local friendly Sports Chiropractor.



Bleakley, C., et al. (2011). “Epidemiology of Adolescent Rugby Injuries: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Athletic Training 46(5): 555-565.

Brooks, J. H. M., et al. (2005). “Epidemiology of injuries in English professional rugby union: part 2 training Injuries.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 39(10): 767-775.

England Rugby Premiership Injury and Training Audit Steering group (2012). England Rugby Premiership injury and Training audit 2010-2011 season Report, England Rugby Union.

Fuller, C. W., et al. (2010). “Injury risks associated with tackling in rugby union.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 44(3): 159-167.

Fuller, C. W., et al. (2007). “Contact events in rugby union and their propensity to cause injury.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 41(12): 862-867.

Fuller, C. W., et al. (2008). “International Rugby Board Rugby World Cup 2007 injury surveillance study.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 42(6): 452-459.

Fuller, C. W., et al. (2010). “Epidemiological Study of Injuries in International Rugby Sevens.” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 20(3): 179-184 110.1097/JSM.1090b1013e3181df1091eea.

Orchard, J. (2002). “Is There a Relationship Between Ground and Climatic Conditions and Injuries in Football?” Sports Medicine 32(7): 419-432.

Simpson, J. C. J., et al. (1999). “Evaluating Tackling Rugby Injury: the pilot phase for monitoring injury.” Australian and New Zealand journal of public health 23(1): 86-88.

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