Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the incidence of contact events in professional rugby union matches and to assess their propensity to cause injury.
Design: The study was a two-season (2003/2004 and 2005/2006) prospective cohort design. It included 645 professional rugby union players from 13 English Premiership rugby union clubs. The main outcome measures were: incidence of match contact events (events per game); incidence (injuries per 1000 player-hours and per 1000 contact events), risk (days lost per 1000 player-hours and per 1000 contact events) and diagnosis of injury; referee’s decision. Risk factors were player–player contact, position on pitch and period of play.
Results: Tackles (221.0 events/game) and rucks (142.5 events/game) were the most common events and mauls (13.6%) and scrums (12.6%) the most penalised. Tackles (701.6 days/1000 player-hours) were responsible for the greatest loss of time but scrums (213.2 days lost/1000 events) and collisions (199.8 days lost/1000 events) presented the highest risk per event.
Conclusions: Tackles were the game event responsible for the highest number of injuries and the greatest loss of time in rugby union because they were by far the most common contact event. Collisions were 70% more likely to result in an injury than a tackle and scrums carried a 60% greater risk of injury than a tackle. The relative propensities for contact events to cause injury were rated as: lineout – very low; ruck – low; maul and tackle – average; collision and scrum – high.
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Competing interests: None.