OBJECTIVES: To determine whether there is an association between a player's physique and injuries incurred while playing rugby football. METHODS: A cohort study was carried out involving all senior rugby clubs in the Scottish Borders during the 1993-1994 rugby season. Somatotype estimates were determined for 1152 (95%) of the 1216 eligible players. Body mass index (BMI), chest to waist ratio, and the ponderal index (PI) were used to classify players' physique as endomorphic (obese), mesomorphic (muscular), and ectomorphic (linear). RESULTS: A strong association was found between physique and age (chi 2 test: chi 2 = 317.2, df = 10, P < 0.0001). More younger players were ectomorphs. Older players were more often endomorphic. The physiques of forwards and backs were significantly different (chi 2 test: chi 2 = 58.6, df = 2, P < 0.0001), with forwards being of a heavier build than three-quarters, even after adjustment for age. Endomorphic players were more likely than ectomorphs to be injured in a match after adjustment for age (age-adjusted mean BMI for players who were injured in a match was 25.4 compared with 24.6 for players who were not injured in a match, P < 0.0001; adjusted chest to waist ratio means were 1.136 and 1.125 respectively, P = 0.0307; adjusted PI means were 0.414 and 0.417 respectively, P = 0.0056). Increased risk of injury may occur when players play out of position, since one fifth of all injuries occurred in this circumstance. CONCLUSIONS: Further research needs to be conducted using a more objective method of measuring somatotype on a further cohort of players so that the risk of injury for different body types can be examined more closely and related to other potential confounding factors. The level of increased risk for individuals playing out of their usual playing position needs to be established with a greater degree of certainty.
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