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England Rugby Premiership Training & Injury Audit 2010-11

17 January 2012

  • Injury audit results for 2010-11 announced
  • No evidence that injury risk is increasing – Kemp
Northampton Saints back row Calum Clark, who has been named in Stuart Lancaster's first EPS

Photo: Getty Images

The results of the world leading annual Premiership injury audit by the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the RPA (Rugby Players’ Association) were released today.

Click on the folling link to download a pdf version of the entire report (PDF 1.1MB)

The England Rugby Injury and Training audit is the most comprehensive and longest running injury surveillance study in elite rugby, bringing together experts from the medical profession to conduct detailed research and injury analysis of Aviva Premiership and England international rugby players to put their welfare at the forefront of the game.

Dr Simon Kemp, Head of Sports Medicine at the RFU and Chair of the England Rugby Premiership Injury and Training Audit steering Group that produced the report, said: “The 2010-11 season findings again clearly show that there is no evidence that the injury risk in the professional game is increasing.

"This contradicts the perception that injury risks in the elite game continues to rise and highlights the value and added robustness of whole league studies rather than single point in time inferences made from studying player unavailability within a single club or international squad. We do see differences in risk from season to season, as you would expect, but they are those that reflect differences that have arisen as a result of normal statistical variation.

England's Ben Foden playing for Northampton

Photo: Getty Images

“The types of injuries sustained by professional players has remained remarkably stable since 2002 and this study helps club medical and conditioning staff assess the effectiveness of their injury prevention and treatment approaches as they are able to compare their own results against the Premiership average .

“The audit helps us prioritise areas to investigate and for the 2012-13 season we will be specifically focussing on the two key areas of the relationship between training load and injury and Concussion. We will be collecting added detail on training load intensity using Ratings of Perceived Exertion and/or GPS data and for Concussions - pre and post injury player performance statistics, the timescales of symptom resolution and the relationship between this and cognitive function/Cogsport tests.”

RPA Rugby Manager David Barnes said: “The RPA is fully supportive of the pioneering work of the Injury Audit, the only such audit of any elite professional rugby environment in the world. By working in collaboration with the RFU and Premiership Rugby, this important information gives us valuable, accurate data that helps to ensure we are continually working to protect all our members.

“The Injury Audit allows us to identify further areas of research that will ultimately help us control and hopefully reduce injury risks across the whole game. There is an incredible amount of work that goes into the collection of this data and we are extremely appreciative of all the medical professionals, their support staff and players who have helped compile this information.”

Harlequins uncapped prop Joe Marler, who has been called into the England squad for the RBS 6 Nations

Photo: Getty Images

Data was collected from all registered Premiership players and covered training and playing in all matches for England, in the Aviva Premiership, LV= Cup and European Competitions (Heineken and European Challenge Cup) for the 2010-11 season.

An injury is defined in the audit as ‘any injury that prevents a player from taking a full part in all training activities typically planned for that day and/or match play for more than 24 hours from midnight at the end of the day the injury was sustained.’

The England Rugby Injury and Training audit is unique in the way it measures both the risk of injury sustained during training and the extent to which training practice may impact on subsequent match injury risk.

Premiership Rugby Director Phil Winstanley said: “In a professional sporting environment it is incumbent on all stakeholders to work together to identify and better understand the cause and type of injuries experienced by players. This project is pivotal in providing data to assess injury trends and to identify the most common and most severe injury occurrences in our game. The club medical specialists provide high quality and detailed information and it is only with data of this calibre can we be specific and targeted in our research programmes.

George Ford takes a kick for Leicester Tigers

Photo: Getty Images

“This study allows us to dispel misconceptions in relation to the injury rates and identify the real risks. Despite some misconceptions, injury rates have remained stable across the last few years and this is in no small part due to the calibre of professional staff and the practices within the professional rugby environment.  The rate of injury recurrence continues to fall and appears to demonstrate a greater understanding of the types of injury and the rehabilitation process.

“Whilst the slight increase in training injuries is not statistically significant, it does highlight the need for greater scrutiny of training session content and intensity although the use of GPS technology is likely to provide a better understanding in this area. The England Rugby Premiership Injury and Training Audit steering Group and the medical practitioners who have contributed to this project should be applauded for their professionalism and commitment to this world leading project. ”    

Key Findings:

  • The overall risk of match and training injury within the Premiership since 20002-3 remains essentially stable with minor fluctuations seen from season to season.
  • 746 match injuries at Premiership Clubs were reported; this equates to an average of 62 match injuries per club per season and 1.9 injuries per club per match with each injury leading to an average of 21 days absence from training and/or playing.
  • The likelihood of sustaining a match injury increased from 80 injuries per 1,000 hours in 2009-10 to 93 injuries per 1,000 hours in 2010-11. This equates to an increase of 0.3% injuries per club per match or 110 more injuries over the course of the season compared with 2009-10.
  • Although the likelihood of sustaining a match injury increased by 16% in 2010-11 compared with 2009-10, it remained comfortably within the “normal range” seen since the study began in 2002 and reflects normal season by season variation rather than any statistically significant change in injury risk. The average severity of injury reduced from 22 days in 2009-10 to 21 days in 2010-11, which also reflects normal season by season variation.
  • The small increase in the match injury risk seen in 2010-11 compared with 2009-10 appears to be as a result of both an increase in a number of different injuries that resulted in 4-7 days absence and a very small absolute increase in injuries that resulted in more than 84 days absence. 
  • 340 training injuries at Premiership clubs were reported; this equates to an average of 28 training injuries per club per season. Injuries occurring during rugby skill sessions resulted in an average of 25 days absence from training and/or playing and injuries occurring during strength and conditioning session resulted in an average of 17 days absence.
  • The likelihood of sustaining an injury during training increased by 16% in 2010-11(2.8 injuries per 1000 hrs) compared with 2009-10 (2.4 injuries per 1000 hrs). This equates to an increase of 3.5 injuries per club or 42 more training injuries over the course of the season compared with 2009-10.
  • Days absence due to Knee Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) ruptures (an uncommon match injury that typically results in more than 84 days absence) increased from 3 (2009-10) to 5 in 2010-11 and this had a very significant effect on both the overall average severity of match injury and the total days absence as a result of match injury in 2010-11.
  • With the increasing use of GPS by clubs to monitor playing load across the league, training intensity is an area that needs to be reviewed. We will explore the feasibility of collecting training intensity/load information in 2012-13.

Strategies to minimise the risk of injury whilst optimising performance are constantly being formulated and evaluated by club and country coaching, medical and conditioning staff.