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England Professional Rugby Injury Audit published

22 March 2013

  • England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project 2011-12 Season Report
  • Findings show that the Injury risk in professional rugby in England remains stable

Photo: Getty Images

The results of the 2011-12 season England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project (click to download) by the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the RPA (Rugby Players’ Association) were released today.

The England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project is the most comprehensive and longest-running injury surveillance study in elite rugby, bringing together experts from the medical and conditioning professions to conduct detailed research and injury analysis on Aviva Premiership Rugby 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 Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project Steering Group that produced the report, said: “The study findings show that the Injury risk in professional rugby in England remains stable but there is still potential to further reduce the risk of injury, particularly during training – a potentially controllable environment where a third of all injuries currently occur.

“While concussion is now the most common Aviva Premiership Rugby match injury, this is as a result of a decrease in other injuries. We have worked hard to ensure that we have a world-leading concussion management policy in place. Awareness of the importance of the correct management of the concussed player continues to grow, the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment trial is working well and we are specifically studying the time course of players' recovery from concussion this season to ensure that our guidelines and advice to players can be properly evidence based.

“Next season we will for the first time be analysing time lost as a result of illness as well as injury and piloting a more detailed analysis of how training load affects injury risk.”

Sireli Naqelevuki of Exeter is tackled by Jordan Turner-Hall of Quins

Photo: Getty Images

Phil Winstanley, Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby, said: “It is incumbent on all stakeholders within the professional rugby environment to monitor the risk of injuries, to understand the findings and, where possible, to mitigate that risk.

“The last 10 years or so have produced a comprehensive data set, which has given us a far more detailed injury profile for the sport and allowed for evidence-based decision making. Whilst concussion injuries have now become the most common injury, our knowledge in this area has allowed us to act quickly and introduce the new PSCA trial, allowing our medics to properly assess players away from the field of play and away from the emotions of the match.

“Initial results are encouraging and it must only be a matter of time before this becomes commonplace in all competitions. The progress which has been made in rugby union in the sports medicine area in the past few years has been significant and credit must go to the Injury Audit Steering Group for the quality of this report and to all the medical teams from the Aviva Premiership Rugby Clubs and the national team for this progress.”

RPA Rugby Manager, David Barnes, said: “As part of the ongoing research, which the players have fully cooperated with, it is encouraging to note that injuries in professional rugby union do not appear to be increasing significantly. The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) remains committed to working with all parties to ensure that, where possible, injury risks to our members playing the game are monitored and effective strategies are developed to reduce risks to their welfare.

“It is concerning that concussion is now the most prevalent injury recorded by the survey. The RPA welcome the new PSCA guidelines which have been introduced this season and urge this protocol to be expanded to all competitions as a matter of urgency. The RPA and its specialist independent medical advisors will prioritise work to understand how we can reduce the occurrence of this injury, in addition to researching any long-term impacts of head injuries.”

Data was collected from all registered Premiership players and covered training and playing in all matches for England, in Aviva Premiership Rugby, LV= Cup and European competitions (Heineken and European Challenge Cup) for the 2011-12 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 Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project 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.

Key findings:

  • The overall risk (incidence and days absence) of match and training injury in the Premiership Rugby remained stable during the 2011-12 season and was within the ‘normal range’ of season by season variation seen since the study began in 2002
  • Whilst the incidence or likelihood of sustaining a match injury reduced by 12% (93→82 injuries per 1,000 hrs or 1.9→1.6 injuries per club per match) compared to 2010-11, this was counter-balanced by an increase in average match injury severity from 21 to 27 days, although this increase was still within the range attributable to season-by-season variation. The increase in average severity was largely as a result of an increase in the number of injuries resulting in 3-6 months out of the game. This group of injuries comprised a broad range of injury types affecting a range of body locations and no firm conclusions about changes in risk profile can be drawn at the present time. This specific group of injuries will be monitored in 2012-13.
  • 323 training injuries were reported. One third of all reported injuries occur in a potentially controllable environment and this highlights the need for coaches and medical and conditioning staff to continue to balance team preparation with injury risk minimisation. Hamstring muscle injuries, lumbar disc and nerve root injuries, and calf muscle injuries were responsible for 32% of the total days' absence for training injuries.
  • Concussion was, for the first time, the most common Aviva Premiership Rugby match injury in 2011-12. This reflects a decrease in the incidence of other injuries rather than an increase in the risk of concussion, but highlights the importance of a coordinated concussion management policy. Aviva Premiership Rugby is currently trialling a new Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) process and specifically auditing concussion match injuries.
  • Hamstring injuries remain the most common and highest risk training injuries, and the third highest match injury risk. 92% of all hamstring injuries are running related and remain an injury with significant potential for further injury risk reduction.
 

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