Article Text

  1. RDJ Whitham
  1. Cardiff University


Background Rugby Union (rugby) is the third most popular contact sport in the world and has one of the highest reported incidences of injuries amongst all sports. Thoroughly characterising these injuries may help develop preventative methods to reduce absence from rugby at professional and amateur levels. Although the tackle event is most commonly associated with concussion and cervical nerve root injuries, shoulder injuries are responsible for up to 46% of days lost to participation at a professional level.

Aims This study sought to evaluate the circumstances, severity, and type of shoulder injuries over the course of one season at a professional rugby team.

Method All shoulder injuries from matches and training during the 2010–11 season at a Welsh regional rugby team were identified retrospectively using the SportsCode video analysis programme. Data recorded for circumstances included direction and height of a tackle, and player movement and the nature of a tackle (e.g. stopping tackle). Severity was measured by number of days lost from competition and/or training. Type of shoulder injury was classified using the Orchard Sports Injury Classification System (OSICS) version 10.1.

Results There were 24 injuries (3 training injuries and 21 match-related) during the 2010–2011 season. The tackle event caused 92% of injuries (n=22) and resulted in 99% (399 of 405 days) of time lost to shoulder injuries. Cumulatively, players who were tackled remained injured for longer than those tackling (266 days vs. 133 days). Of the 19 videos available for analysis of injury circumstance, injuries most frequently occurred when tackles were high (74%), front-on (53%) and when players were moving with speed (68%). The commonest injuries sustained were acromioclavicular joint sprains (n=9), yet per injury the most severe were dislocation injuries (mean severity, 51.5 days).

Discussion The tackle event causes the majority of shoulder injuries in professional rugby and is the commonest cause of days lost due to shoulder injuries. Therefore, potential methods of “prehabilitation” such as strengthening muscles around the joint to stabilise the shoulder and coaching correct tackle techniques are essential in minimising time lost. A larger study across a greater number of professional rugby teams, using immediate post-injury video analysis, is needed before evidence-based recommendations for shoulder injury prevention can be made.

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