Background and aims Catastrophic cervical spine injuries are rare in rugby union but require close monitoring. The aim of this study was to analyse the incidence of severe cervical spine injuries and determine the impact of a national prevention programme and new scrum rules implemented by the French Rugby Union.
Methods A prospective study was performed between 2006 and 2013 including all players affiliated to the French Rugby Union. All cervical spine injuries resulting in death, tetraplegia or a permanent neurological deficit were included. Prevention programmes were implemented from 2007 to 2013 and a change in scrum rules in 2010. To measure the impact of rule changes, results between 2006–2010 and 2010–2013 were compared using a Poisson regression.
Results Altogether, 31 injuries were observed and the mean annual incidence was 1.6 per 100 000 players. There were significantly more injuries in senior players compared to junior players (3.5 vs 0.6 per 100 000 players; CI 95% (2.1 to 4.9) vs (0.1 to 1.0)). Incidence decreased from 1.8 in 2006 to 1.0 per 100 000 players in 2013 (p<0.0001). After 2010, there were significantly fewer injuries during scrums (p=0.02). In contrast, there were significantly more injuries in backs during 2010–2013 compared to 2006–2010 (p=0.003).
Conclusions The incidence of catastrophic cervical spine injuries has declined in French Rugby Union. The implementation of specific prevention programmes and scrum law changes has notably resulted in a decrease in scrum injuries in forwards. This prospective study should be continued to monitor the future progression of injuries and adapt prevention programmes accordingly.
- Cervical spine
- Injury prevention