Background Little is known about the injury incidence and risk factors in junior rugby union football. In particular, the timing of the introduction of the tackle, the skill associated with the highest incidence of injury, must be considered in the development pathway.
Objective To measure the incidence of injury in junior rugby and assess risk factors.
Design A prospective cohort study.
Setting Community level junior male rugby union football.
Participants 312 rugby players aged between 6 and 14 years were recruited over two seasons.
Assessment of risk factors Age, number of players, and introduction of the tackle were assessed.
Main outcome measurements Game and training participations, as well as injury, were measured. Injury was defined as occurring when a player missed a game or training due to an injury in a rugby game or training and calculated as the injury incidence rate (eg, per 1000 h of game participation).
Results There were 24 injuries over two seasons. Season one game injury incidence was, for example, 7.5 injuries per 1000 h. No injuries were recorded in the youngest age groups and there was a gradual increase in injury rates with age. In this cohort age and number of players on the field is correlated due to the game structure. Forearm/hand and knee injuries were most common. The tackle and accidental falls were the most common cause of injury. An unusual injury occurred to one player at training – a vertebral artery tear that may have resulted from a fall.
Conclusion Injuries were typical childhood injuries that occur in sport and recreational activities. Injury rates were much lower than observed in adult rugby (community and professional). Accidental falls appear to be more common in this study than in older age groups. This may be related to gross motor control and developing team and individual rugby skills.