Background Illness accounts for a significant proportion of consultations with a team physician travelling with elite athletes.
Objective To determine the incidence, type, cause and consequences of illness in Rugby Union players participating in a 16-week tournament.
Setting 8 teams participating in the 2010 Super 14 Rugby tournament
Participants A cohort of 259 elite rugby players from eight teams was recruited.
Assessmen All players were followed daily over the 16-week competition period (22 676 player days). Each day, team physicians completed an illness log with 100% compliance. Information included the daily squad size and illness details including system affected, final diagnosis, type and onset of symptoms, training/match days lost and suspected cause.
Main outcome measurement Incidence of illness (illness per 1000 player days).
Results The incidence of illness in the cohort was 20.7/1000 player days (95% CI 18.5 to 23.1) with the highest incidence of illness in the respiratory system (6.4: 95% CI 5.5 to 7.3), gastrointestinal system (5.6: 95% CI 4.9 to 6.6) and the skin and subcutaneous tissue (4.6; 95% CI 4.0 to 5.4). Infections accounted for 54.5% of all illness and 26.1% of illness resulted in time loss of ≥1 day. In over 50% of illnesses, symptoms were present for ≥1 day before being reported to the team physician.
Conclusion Infective illness involving the respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract together with dermatological illness was common in elite rugby players participating in this international tournament. A delay in reporting of symptoms >24 h could have important clinical implications in player medical care.
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Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Research Ethics Committee, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.