Br J Sports Med 44:188-193 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2007.041400
  • Original article

Head, face and neck injury in youth rugby: incidence and risk factors

Editor's Choice
  1. R Wolfe4
  1. 1School of Risk and Safety Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3School of Human Movement and Sport Sciences, University of Ballarat, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Andrew S McIntosh, School of Risk and Safety Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, New South Wales, Australia; a.mcintosh{at}
  • Accepted 12 February 2008
  • Published Online First 2 April 2008


Objectives In this study, the incidence of head, neck and facial injuries in youth rugby was determined, and the associated risk factors were assessed.

Design Data were extracted from a cluster randomised controlled trial of headgear with the football teams as the unit of randomisation. No effect was observed for headgear use on injury rates, and the data were pooled.

Setting General school and club-based community competitive youth rugby in the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Participants Young male rugby union football players participating in under-13, under 15, under 18 and under 21 years competitions. Eighty-two teams participated in year 1 and 87 in year 2.

Main outcome measures Injury rates for all body regions combined, head, neck and face calculated for game and missed game injuries.

Results 554 head, face and neck injuries were recorded within a total of 28 902 h of rugby game exposure. Level of play and player position were related to injury risk. Younger players had the lowest rates of injury; forwards, especially the front row had the highest rate of neck injury; and inside backs had the highest rate of injuries causing the player to miss a game. Contact events, including the scrum and tackle, were the main events leading to injury.

Conclusion Injury prevention must focus on the tackle and scrum elements of a youth rugby game.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by The University of New South Wales Human Research Ethics Committee.

  • Patient consent Obtained.