Aim To establish the propensity for specific contact events to cause injury in rugby union.
Methods Medical staff at participating English community-level rugby clubs reported any injury resulting in the absence for one match or more from the day of the injury during the 2009/2010 (n=46), 2010/2011 (n=67) and 2011/2012 (n=76) seasons. Injury severity was defined as the number of matches missed. Thirty community rugby matches were filmed and the number of contact events (tackles, collision tackles, rucks, mauls, lineouts and scrums) recorded.
Results Of 370 (95% CI 364 to 378) contact events per match, 141 (137 to 145) were tackles, 115 (111 to 119) were rucks and 32 (30 to 33) were scrums. Tackles resulted in the greatest propensity for injury (2.3 (2.2 to 2.4) injuries/1000 events) and the greatest severity (16 (15 to 17) weeks missed/1000 events). Collision tackles (illegal tackles involving a shoulder charge) had a propensity for injury of 15 (12.4 to 18.3) injuries/1000 events and severity was 92 (75 to 112) weeks missed/1000 events, both of which were higher than any other event. Additional scrum analysis showed that only 5% of all scrums collapsed, but the propensity for injury was four times higher (2.9 (1.5 to 5.4) injuries/1000 events) and the severity was six times greater (22 (12 to 42) weeks missed/1000 events) than for non-collapsed scrums.
Conclusions Injury prevention in the tackle should focus on technique with strict enforcement of existing laws for illegal collision tackles. The scrum is a relatively controllable event and further attempts should be made to reduce the frequency of scrum collapse.
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