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Upper limb injury in rugby union football: results of a cohort study
  1. Juliana Usman1,2,
  2. Andrew Stuart McIntosh1,3
  1. 1Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  3. 3Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP), Monash Injury Research Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrew Stuart McIntosh, c/o TARS, Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia; as.mcintosh{at}


Background There have been few in-depth studies of upper limb injury epidemiology in rugby union football, despite reports that they accounted for between 14% and 28% of all rugby injuries.

Objective To report on upper limb injury incidence, injury severity and to identify the risk factors associated with upper limb injuries, for example, level of play, season (years) and playing position.

Design Prospective cohort study across five rugby seasons from 2004 to 2008.

Setting Formal rugby competitions—suburban, provincial and international.

Participants 1475 adult male rugby players in Colts, Grade and Elite competitions.

Main outcome measurements An upper limb injury resulting in a missed game and its characteristics.

Results A total of 61 598 athletic exposures (AE) and 606 upper limb injuries were recorded. About 66% of the injuries were to the shoulder. The overall upper limb injury incidence rate (IIR) was 9.84 injuries/1000 AE (95% CI 9.06 to 10.62). Statistically significant associations were found between upper limb injuries and level of play; and between shoulder injuries and playing position (p<0.05). No association was found between upper limb and shoulder injuries and study year. The overall upper limb IIR decreased as the level of play increased; 10.74 upper limb injuries/1000 AE (95% CI 9.93 to 11.56) in Colts to 6.07 upper limb injuries/1000 AE (95% CI 5.46 to 6.69) in Elite.

Conclusions The upper limb IIR decreased as the level of play increased indicating that age, level of skill and playing experience may be risk factors for upper limb injury.

  • Injury Prevention
  • Sporting injuries
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Rugby

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