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The New Zealand rugby injury and performance project. VI. A prospective cohort study of risk factors for injury in rugby union football


Objectives—Although the nature of rugby injury has been well documented, little is known about key risk factors. A prospective cohort study was undertaken to examine the association between potential risk factors and injury risk, measured both as an injury incidence rate and as a proportion of the playing season missed. The latter measure incorporates a measure of injury severity.

Methods—A cohort of 258 male players (mean (SD) age 20.6 (3.7) years) were followed through a full competitive season. At a preseason assessment, basic characteristics, health and lifestyle patterns, playing experience, injury experience, training patterns, and anthropometric characteristics were recorded, and then a battery of fitness tests were carried out.

Results—A multiple regression model identified grade and previous injury experience as risk factors for in season injury, measured as an injury incidence rate. A second model identified previous injury experience, hours of strenuous physical activity a week, playing position, cigarette smoking status, body mass index, years of rugby participation, stress, aerobic and anaerobic performance, and number of push ups as risk factors for in season injury, measured as proportion of season missed.

Conclusions—The findings emphasise the importance of previous injury as a predictor of injury incidence and of missing play. They also show the importance of considering both the incidence rate and severity of injury when identifying risk factors for injury in sport.

  • injury
  • epidemiology
  • risk factors
  • cohort
  • rugby union

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